A coming-of-age story set during the rising tide of World War II, How to Find Your Way in the Dark follows Sheldon Horowitz from his humble start in a cabin in rural Massachusetts, through the trauma of his father's murder and the murky experience of assimilation in Hartford, Connecticut, to the birth of stand-up comedy in the Catskills--all while he and his friends are beset by anti-Semitic neighbors, employers, and criminals.
This is one busy book! There’s enough plot here for three novels. At its heart, though, it’s the story of Sheldon Horowitz, who is 12 when readers first meet him and soon to become an orphan after his father is murdered ... This only scratches the surface of this incident-rich, coming-of-age novel—perhaps too incident-rich, since the lives of Abe and Mirabelle tend to divert attention from Sheldon’s story. Nevertheless, the story is compelling and deeply satisfying.
... terrific ... This quest spirals into grimly entertaining capers, including a jewel heist in the burgeoning borscht belt resorts of the Catskills. Diverting subplots track America’s entry into WWII and the birth of modern stand-up comedy, as shown by Lenny’s hilarious forays into showbiz. Readers will root for Sheldon, a memorable survivor, every step of the way.
There's a lot to enjoy in this sprawling book, which brings a Huck Finn–ish humor to its coming-of-age story. But with its overstated themes and tendency to dictate the characters' thoughts and feelings rather than elicit them, the novel compromises its emotional impact. A novel whose entertaining parts don't make for a satisfying whole.