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A Replacement Life: A Novel by Boris Fishman

A Replacement Life: A Novel (original 2014; edition 2015)

by Boris Fishman (Author)

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1655109,039 (3.53)18
Title:A Replacement Life: A Novel
Authors:Boris Fishman (Author)
Info:Harper Perennial (2015), Edition: Reprint, 352 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Jewish immigrants, human drama

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A Replacement Life by Boris Fishman (2014)



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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
A marvelous ​debut novel from a writer who recently caught my eye with his riveting memoir called "Savage Feast" (2019). "A Replacement Life" is also quite autobiographical, although the names (and maybe certain other things) are changed. Boris Fishman's talent shines in both works.

In this novel, there is a moral dilemma, a love dilemma, an age-old dilemma of belonging and fitting in - for an immigrant (specifically here for an ex-Soviet Jewish person), and all this is crafted, with stirring insight, in the inimitable style of narration that draws you in from page one.

Here's an example of a poignant truth about numerous ex-Soviet immigrants in New York (all kinds, not just Jewish), offered by the author quite eloquently:

"These unlike people had been tossed together like salad by the cupidity of the Soviet government, and now, in America, they were forced to keep speaking Russian, their sole bond, if they wanted to understand each other.... The brethren who had remained in the old world had moved forward in history - they were now citizens of independent countries, their native languages withdrawn from under the rug, buffed, spit-shined, returned to first place, but here in Brooklyn, they were stuck forever in Soviet times. They have gotten marooned on a new island except for what their children would do..." ( )
1 vote Clara53 | Jul 11, 2019 |
I have a soft spot for ‘tragicomedies’ and A Replacement Life is a great example of the darker, more serious variety. Fishman establishes the ominous, yet ironic tone from the word go. This novel will really appeal to word and language enthusiasts. The sharp edges, surly demeanours and cunning of Fishman’s senior citizen characters are endearing in their authenticity. Read full review >> ( )
1 vote BookloverBookReviews | Dec 30, 2017 |
Well written and quite funny for a novel about Holocaust reparations, this didn't quite work for me. I didn't find the story that compelling and there is a sameness to this kind of male, Jewish, Russian emigre, literary, Brooklynvs Manhattan, sex-obsessed voice.

The more I think about it, the more I think the novel was a bit too baggy and the interesting bits get lost in the ruminating. Maybe a little too fond of itself. Another instance of less would be more. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
I think that it is almost unfair to call this a brilliant debut novel, because in my opinion, Boris Fishman does not write like a debut novelist. Taken at face-value, this story is marvelous, with memorable, powerful, evocative characters and a stirring and gripping plot, not your typical story of immigration by a long shot. This story is one with the literary flavor of the ubiquitous onion, peeling away at multiple layers of one's sense of self, of history, of love, of connection across the generations, of the ability to sacrifice and to use within each person, of the variation in cultural definitions of lies and the truths that matter. On top of all of that, the ending is suspenseful and satisfying, and that is not always seen despite reading a great story, particularly in a debut novel. Upon completion, I can genuinely say that I think I gained some measure of new insight into the heart and mind of a new immigrant to the United States. Just read it! ( )
2 vote hemlokgang | Sep 3, 2015 |
Slava Gelman is a junior staffer at a magazine that isn't but might as well be The New Yorker, where his assignment is to ferret out and crack wise about absurd news items in small-town newspapers. Slava lives on the Upper East Side, which isn't but might as well be on the other side of the world from "Soviet Brooklyn" where he landed as a child on arrival from Minsk (as did Fishman), where his grandparents still live and which his parents fled for suburban New Jersey. When Slava's grandmother dies, he treks via subway to Brooklyn and before long is trekking regularly, roped by his scheming grandfather into crafting (he's a writer, isn't he?) a fictitious claim to the German government for a slice of the reparations pie earmarked for Holocaust survivors. So what if Grandfather didn't suffer precisely as required to be eligible? Didn't the Germans make sure to kill those who did? So begins Boris Fishman's darkly comic and very impressive debut novel.

Fishman pulls off a difficult feat in a first novel, even one so closely grounded in his own experience. He has written a book that is both funny and genuinely moving. The Jews of Brighton Beach, who survived the Nazis and the Soviets through cunning, luck and sheer force of will, are a brilliantly drawn tough lot, re-inventing themselves once again in a place where you can "afford to be decent." Slava wants to free himself from "the swamp broth of Soviet Brooklyn" and earn a byline by writing elegant prose but in borrowing true elements of his dead grandmother's life to fashion false narratives for his grandfather and his friends, he is drawn more deeply into the past and into the community he has longed to escape.

Poor, confused Slava, torn between past and present, loyalty and honor, skinny uptown Arianna and luscious childhood playmate Vera,...Is he being followed? Will his fraud be uncovered? At what cost? Will he do the right thing? I loved this book. Fishman tells a good story, one with moral ambiguity and conflicting loyalties, and his prose crackles with irony and wit. If you were in any danger of thinking that the immigrant experience has been exhaustively mined in fiction, think again. Boris Fishman is a welcome voice and "A Replacement Life" is a wholly original and worthy contribution. ( )
1 vote alpin | Jul 28, 2014 |
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"A ... story of an aspiring twenty-something Russian-Jewish writer who struggles to reconcile his immigrant roots with his fragile new American identity"--

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