Boris Fishman makes his literary debut with this provocative, soulful, and sometimes hilarious story of a failed journalist asked to do the unthinkable: Forge Holocaust-restitution claims for old Russian Jews in Brooklyn, New York. Winner of the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, the American Library Association's Sophie Brody Medal and a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award.
Finalist for the National Jewish Book Award
Fishman balances brilliantly on the treacherous tightrope of using language to explore the inadequacy of language ... It is the details that make Fishman’s novel convincing, from the marinated peppers with buckwheat honey at the grandmother’s funeral, to the vivid semi-inventions of her backstory: a baby choked to prevent discovery, a boy’s trousers soaked in fear ... A Replacement Life is an elegy for loss (of families, health, sanity) and a plea for compassion. It raises serious questions about identity and history. Comically human flaws are juxtaposed with a violent, ineluctable past, and survivors are 'the walking wounded', psychologically and physically. 'We are talking about people I love,' says Slava. 'We are talking about people who have suffered.'
...a powerful yet tender narrative that explores the tug of war between the past and the future for immigrant families in America ... A Replacement Life is as real and vibrant as the south Brooklyn neighborhoods...where the book's older characters live. These personalities are not shortchanged in complexity or depth of description. They are neither saints nor sinners but something in between. Initially overlooked by the narrator as hopelessly outdated and senile, this community of displaced, long-suffering survivors gains importance with each passing chapter ... Fishman's own mastery of both Russian and English, especially when describing people and places, keeps A Replacement Life from bogging down in revelations and epiphanies. Some of his descriptions are laugh-outloud funny ... Fishman never loses the reader's trust. No line in this book rings false, no character is unheard, no event seems like a plot device. The novel is like a story that a grandparent might tell you at the dinner table—one of those stories that the young may ignore only to regret their impatience later.