O! what Man will do fore a Rime!

Self-proclaimed bibliophile, culture nut and nerdfighter. English lit. and linguistics geek. Future career in publishing.

The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon

The Yiddish Policemen's Union - Michael Chabon

"Nobody has that much weight," Landsman says. "Not even the Verbover rebbe."


Berko ducks his head and gives his shoulders a half-shrug, as if he doesn't want to say anything more lest terrible forces be unleashed, scourges and plagues and holy tornadoes.


"Just because you don't believe in miracles," he says.

- The Yiddish Policemen's Union

Chapter 12, page 105



The Yiddish Policemen's Union is about an abrasive Jewish cop investigating the murder of a random junkie found in a hotel. This happens in an alternate universe where the Zionists didn't get to establish modern-day Israel after the end of World War II (well, they do, but it falls after 1948) and instead the Jewish people are given a little plot of land in Alaska, called the Sitka District, where they are not a part of the USA. However, this murder happens at the time when the USA wants to take back the Sitka District and not everyone is certain if they will qualify for American citizenship.

What this boils down to is:
(1) Are you fascinated by the Jewish culture, religion, people?
(2) Do you like frozen wastelands?
(3) Are you a fan of murder mysteries?
(4) Do you enjoy books with racial and political tensions?
(5) Does Michael Chabon's prose float your boat?
(6) If, on a scale of 1-10 on how excited you are for orthodox Jewish gangsters, you're an 11...

Even picking one of those six means it's likely you'll enjoy this book. Chabon has such a gorgeous way of describing everything, it's almost impossible for you to not have a wonderful picture in your head. His prose always feels like he's describing a fantastic movie. Which, by the way, this novel needs to be turned into a film. I don't care. I need a film full of Jewish people in Alaska speaking Yiddish with a film noir buddy cop style. It's kind of like Woody Allen meets Martin Scorsese.

The mystery is well-done, the plot is a bit convoluted and hard to follow but you'll get there in the end, and the characters are great, especially Bina and Berko. Also, I just love that there is a lot of chess (I adore chess, even though I'm not very good) and terrible father-son relationships, but you know that they love each other even though they hate each other.

And, c'mon, there's orthodox Jewish gangsters. Can you imagine the black hats, the beards, the side-curls attacking like tough motherfuckers? Amazing.

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