What We Talk About

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

by Nathan Englander

Gail Reid (06/28/12): Nathan Englander's new collection of 8 short stories are edgy, contemporary insights into universal truths and feelings. Although most (but not all) of them are written with a Jewish perspective, full of Jewish names and Yiddish phrases, they nonetheless reflect issues that are meaningful, in some ways, to everyone.

In the title story, childhood best friends Deb and Lauren reunite after 20 years. Deb lives a secular Jewish life with her husband in Florida, long ago moving away from her Yeshiva upbringing. Her friend Lauren (now Shoshana) and her husband observe a strict Orthodox lifestyle in Israel where they are parents to 10 daughters. Despite the wide spectrum of their respective religious beliefs, there is a level of emotional intimacy between the couples that ignites thanks to the influence of alcohol and marijuana during an afternoon visit. When Deb confesses to a made-up "what if" game she invented around the Holocaust, one of the couples discovers a shocking truth about their relationship.

The other stories range from wonderful to fair and from enlightening to disturbing. In any case, the writing is terrific.
Rating: ***

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