The Street Sweeper by Elliot Perlman

This book is absolutely intriguing.  It begins as a story about a few vastly different characters in different situations in even different time periods who, over time, come together in a cleverly knitted plot.  One beloved character is an African-American man who because of poor luck and lack of resources ends up in jail in spite of truly being innocent, and after he comes out, all he wants to do is make good so that he can find the daughter he hasn’t seen since she was 2.  Another character is a the son of a Jewish lawyer who was very involved in the civil rights movement who is himself trying to revive his failing career as a history professor at Columbia.  A third main character is an elderly Jewish man who is a Holocaust survivor who is a patient at Sloan Kettering.  Each story gradually winds its way around the other to come together in a beautiful denouement.

The writing is interesting as well.  There is a lot of repetition of an almost musical style.  In going back and forth between the characters and the story line, this is not only helpful but it also feels also like a refrain in a song or a poem.  It is almost as if each character cannot believe s/he is who or where s/he is and needs reminding of what is happening.  Occasionally the repetition is more than is necessary, bit it is certainly unique.

I will say that as many books as I’ve read about the Holocaust, this has some of the most graphic descriptions of the death camps that I’ve encountered.  There are vivid details of the gas chambers and the crematoria such that this book is not for the feint of heart.  That said, it is also inspiring and uplifting in its own way as well.

I highly recommend this book both for its literary and historical beauty!


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