…by Nicole Krauss.
Leo Grusky, an elderly lonely person, a retired locksmith by profession, an on and off writer, lives in New York. Originally from a small town in Poland, Leo, as a teenager, falls in love with a girl named Alma and writes a book before they both get separated and flee the country (to come to America) due to the war. When Leo lands in NY, he does everything to find Alma, only to be disappointed to see her married and raising a family. He spends the rest of his life after that yearning for her love, lonely in his apartment, spending time with his friend Bruno, and working on another book every now and then.
Alma, a teenager in NY who was named after a character in a book titled The History of Love by an author named Litvinoff, wants to help her mother find love after her father passes away. She explores ways to make her mother move on when her mother receives a copy of the manuscript of The History of Love from a person named Jacob Marcus, who wants the story translated. Recognizing a chance for her to find love, Alma sets out to find Jacob Marcus and during that quest gets pulled into wanting to discover about her namesake character in the book.
The mystery that unfolds after that, with interference from Alma’s brother Brid, is what makes the rest of the story. Who is Jacob Marcus? How does Alma, the teenager, and Leo come together? What role do the author Litvinoff and his book play? Does Alma find Jacob Marcus? And many other questions are answered in this gripping tale of love, life, melancholy, friendship, misunderstanding, longing, simple pleasures and much more.
Narrated mainly from the point of views of Alma (the teenager) and the elderly Leo, this book made me smile, left me feeling sad, kept me immersed in the story and at the end, brought out few tears. The story in itself is gripping. Many characters, each with its own charm, at first left me confused. But everything comes together as the mystery unfolds little by little in later parts of the novel. Although the story was strong in general, there were parts that were tad unrealistic for my taste, particularly with Alma and her brother Bird. Even with little dissatisfaction here and there, I’ve to admit that I absolutely enjoyed reading the book from start to finish.
One of the points I was attracted to the most while reading this book was the prose – the words that poured like poetry, giving life to even the most heartbreaking situations. I immensely enjoyed reading the book, especially the parts where the narration was done by Leo. I felt that Leo’s character was the strongest, and had the greatest potential in bringing out the beauty of the story. Honestly, I might’ve liked the book more if it had been narrated by Leo only…but then each and every chapter / character was deep and enriching in its own way, so I won’t complain.
Overall, I would highly recommend it – it’s a brilliantly penned story of compassion that shouldn’t be missed.
My rating: 5*.
*for the rating scale, click here.