Isaac

Robert Kar­mon Plea­sure Boat Stu­dio (DE­CEM­BER) Hard­cover $26.95 (188pp) 978-0-912887-53-1

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction - GARY PRES­LEY

Isaac is pro­found and con­se­quen­tial historical fic­tion.

Robert Kar­mon’s Isaac is a mov­ing tale of a young Pol­ish Jew trapped dur­ing the Holo­caust, a per­son who joins anti-nazi par­ti­sans out of ne­ces­sity, only to be con­fronted again with vir­u­lent anti-semitism.

In 1941, the Nazi blitzkrieg strikes Rovno, Poland. Isaac’s fa­ther is a pros­per­ous fac­tory owner, but his fam­ily is looted of their pos­ses­sions, marched into Sosenki For­est, ex­e­cuted, and dumped into a mass grave. Only Isaac es­capes.

In shock and ter­ri­fied, Isaac roams the for­est. He is near star­va­tion and dy­ing of ex­po­sure when he en­coun­ters a par­ti­san group. In the group is Pi­etka, a gen­tile boy from a neigh­bor­ing vil­lage. Pi­etka urges Isaac to iden­tify him­self as “Sergei,” a Rus­sian. Many hard, bru­tal par­ti­sans are anti-semitic, but Isaac keeps his se­cret and learns de­mo­li­tions.

Isaac falls in love with Du­cia, an older wid­owed nurse. Soviet agents bring sup­plies and as­sign mis­sions. They too re­main ig­no­rant of Isaac’s back­ground, but they find his skill with dy­na­mite and his abil­ity to blow up Nazi sup­ply trains ad­mirable.

Kol­pak, the Rus­sian agent, proves a mem­o­rable char­ac­ter, as does Pi­etka. Du­cia is the most nu­anced char­ac­ter—writ­ten as strong-willed but kind, lov­ing and in­de­pen­dent, even among the par­ti­sans, who re­gard women as chat­tel.

With dan­ger al­ways present, the nar­ra­tive re­mains tense, if it also re­lies heav­ily on ex­po­si­tion. Other than Isaac, Du­cia, and Pi­etka, char­ac­ters are less di­men­sional than they are role fillers, par­tic­u­larly the nearly in­dis­tin­guish­able cast of Nazis. The set­ting, ren­dered with its bit­ter cold, great gray for­est, scarcity of food, and con­stant dan­ger, makes for a be­liev­able at­mos­phere.

The novel’s foun­da­tion is re­al­ity, draw­ing from the ex­pe­ri­ences of the real Isaac Gochman, whom the author met when Gochman was in his sev­en­ties, and so ev­ery page rings with hard truths.

Isaac is pro­found and con­se­quen­tial historical fic­tion, a novel wor­thy of in­clu­sion in the Holo­caust canon.

De­scrip­tions of the deserts, val­leys, and canyons in and around Stony Mesa are col­or­ful and vivid. The loud and wild open­ing set­tles down into a thought­ful nar­ra­tive.

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