Modern Jewish-American Life Addressed in a New Book

Jennifer Anne Moses’ first storybook, 13 of them, is a dry and pragmatic commentary on modern Jewish-American life. His great ability consists in evoking from his most fertile imagination fully credible human beings, with their strengths and weaknesses, and carving a portion of their existence for us.

In many of their stories we enter their lives, walk a certain distance with them, and depart. Totally unbiased, he never provides a moral for his stories, letting the reader draw one, if there is one.

As a writer, Moses inhabits a wide variety of personalities, from a Holocaust survivor to a nine-year-old boy, from a middle-aged husband to a promiscuous young woman, and each is credible because each has been so completely imagined. One of those characters that will remain engraved in the memory is Yetta, an uninhibited old woman, with a sharp tongue and obsessed with sex, from the final story of this collection, “The visit of the Sun”, a complete portrait painted with the expressionless humor of a mother. loved and hated in equal measure.

Sometimes Moses provides us with a plot. The seventh story of the book, from which he extracts the volume title, is one of them. In a mixed marriage, the terminally ill Jewish wife discovers Jesus and insists on being buried as a Christian, while her non-religious Christian husband, struck by the revelation that Jesus was Jewish, decides that he is Jewish. Another story with a plot is “I am going to marry tomorrow” in which the antihero moves and hesitates between two young women, and ends up being the unhappy victim of his own personality.

In “The Holy Messiah”, a secular Israeli loses his son twice, first to ultra-Orthodoxy and then to war. In “The Fire,” the great story of a nine-year-old boy, dreamed of to impress a girl, leads his father to jail. “You still don’t sleep with men you meet in bookstores, do you?” This question, addressed to the protagonist of “My Cousin’s Heart”, sums up the theme of the story, which plunges into the unhappy life of a lustful young woman in modern New York.

“Skipped” explores the profound and lifelong psychological effects on two sisters of the youngest who is considered smart enough to skip a grade in elementary school. “Do This Together” paints an unsentimental picture of a modern Jewish-American family assimilated at the time of the mother’s death. “The Uncircumcised” is a sad little story of a man who survived the Holocaust because his radical parents refused to be circumcised, but who loses his sister Esther twice: once actually and once when they give him a dog that he is convinced that it is her reincarnation, and they run over her in the street.

And our author?

“I was born in 1959,” Moses writes, “and grew up in the idealized Virginia suburbs of the 1960s. I wanted to be a writer. To that end, I read a lot and had a lot of very bad boyfriends. I finally got married and had three children. Then we moved from Washington DC to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where stories, both comic and tragic, just fall from the sky. I write both fiction and non-fiction. “

There is something about writing that she wants to share. “It is something that I recently realized myself, even though I had been practicing it, on and off, for years. And it is this: allow the story you are supposed to be writing to flow through you and out of your hands in the form of typed words. Chances are, if you fight, overthink, ruminate, and lose sleep over a project, it’s not really meant to be. “

“The man who loved his wife” was certainly meant to be. It provides the reader with a series of vibrant cameos that capture something of the essence of the Jewish spirit. A kind of Yiddish flavor permeates the stories, evoking a feeling of empathy in any reader who might have something of the sort in their own story.

Yet there is also a universality to the themes Moses explores and the characters he creates. She understands the human condition and presents her people and their circumstances without judgment. Reading Jennifer Anne Moses is especially rewarding. She broadens our understanding of human beings, their motives, and their behavior.

This collection of stories will undoubtedly provide great pleasure to anyone interested in people and what motivates them. It is highly recommended. 

The Man Who Loved His Wife by Jennifer Anne Moses (credit: courtesy)

The man who loved his wife
By Jennifer Anne Moses
Mayapple Press
172 pages; 20.95

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