Menachem Kaiser’s Plunder: A Memoir of Family Property and Nazi Treasure tells a twisting and reverberant and consistently enthralling story. It’s a weird story that gets weirder ... Kaiser is a reflective man on the page, with a lively mind. He dwells on the moral seesaw he finds himself on ... Plunder has many stories to tell ... many moods and registers. It acquires moral gravity. It pays tender and respectful attention to forgotten lives. It is also alert to melancholic forms of comedy. Tonally I was reminded at times of Jonathan Safran Foer’s excellent first novel, Everything Is Illuminated ... Traveling on a private road, closer to the ground, and at a slower pace, [Kaiser's] walk turns up details that are fresh, unexpected and significant. His perceptions are sharp. We partake of his curiosity.
... a book in which both my grandparents would recognize themselves ... This is weird, complicated territory—by which I mean it’s fantastic ... thrives as a morally complicated travelogue, but when the action slows—and the Polish legal reclamation process is, uh, not swift—things can get a little hairy. A chapter of rhetorical dialogue about reclamation ethics comes from nowhere and goes nowhere, and the author’s conversations with his living relatives feel stifled, like something’s being held back. It’s not the first book that would benefit from 50 pages falling out of the binding ... But it is original, and it finishes strong.
... not an easy book to categorize because it shuttles seamlessly between history, travelogue, and commentary. Ultimately, this is a personal narrative – a gifted writer’s effort to understand his grandfather’s life – that turned out to be far richer and more varied than the author ever envisioned when he undertook this journey. And it makes for a fascinating and thought-provoking read.