Books by "Allen Hoffman" (4)

Kagan's Superfecta

And Other Stories

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The art of Jewish storytelling thrives in this captivating collection of tales filled with memorable characters.

The stories in this collection are deeply felt explorations in to the Jewish mind and world — stories in the tradition of Isaac Bashevis Singer. At the same time, illuminated by compassion and humor, they transcend cultural boundaries and provide fascinating studies in the universal human experience. Kagan the compulsive gambler, Bluma the old beggarwoman, Hymie the well-to-do arsonist, and Maxie the juggling uncle are but a few of the unforgettable characters brought to vivid life in these pages.

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Two for the Devil

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This searing third novel in the critically acclaimed Small Worlds series records the cruel fate of the villagers of Krimsk as they encounter the twentieth century's greatest agents of evil: Joseph Stalin and Adolph Hitler.

It is Rosh Hashanah — the Jewish New Year and Day of Judgment — in Moscow during the Stalinist purges of 1936. In the Lubyanka secret police prison, senior investigator Grisha Shwartzman masterfully pursues the rigorous logic and obsessive legalism of the Soviet witch-hunt. Facing an extraordinary prisoner, Grisha realizes that the Soviet system he has faithfully served is murderously corrupt and that he himself will be the next victim — but not an innocent one. In despair, he flees to his home, where his deranged wife and an unexpected Rosh Hashanah letter from his father-in-law, the enigmatic Krimsker Rebbe in America, await him. The Day of Judgment proves to be a startling experience as Grisha, the once idealistic radical, judges himself, accepts his responsibilities, and is guided to sublime passion and possible redemption by his mad wife, who for twenty years has been patiently awaiting him in a closed wardrobe.

In 1942 a train of imprisoned Jews leaves the Warsaw ghetto for "resettlement in the East." It is Yom Kippur — the Day of Atonement and the holiest day of the Jewish year. In a crowded cattle car stands a lonely, defeated individual who is ashamed that he cannot even remember his own name. During the tortuous journey Yechiel Katzman will overhear a talmudic debate and meet a dull-witted giant who turns out to be none other than Itzik Dribble, also from Krimsk. As they arrive in the death camp of Treblinka, Yechiel remembers not only his name but also the Krimsker Rebbe's prophetic curse that exiled him from Krimsk forty years earlier. Yet as death approaches, that curse will prove a blessing.

Stalin and Hitler decree certain death, but Grisha and Yechiel discover Jewish fates. The devil incites loneliness, degradation, despair, and even complicity; through memory, the victims elicit community, dignity, and the awareness of sanctity. Grisha's "Soviet" Rosh Hashanah and Yechiel's "Nazi" Yom Kippur are truly "Days of Awe." Even when death is certain, life can be lived.

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Big League Dreams

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The captivating new novel by the author of Small Worlds chronicles the loves and unbounded dreams of the villagers from Krimsk, now thriving in America.

In St. Louis, it is the summer of 1920 and the day is the Sabbath, but there is little rest for the Jews from Krimsk and less reverence for the wondrous Krimsker Rebbe, who led them to the New World seventeen years before. The rebbe's former hasidim have embraced America to discover that the vision of "gold in the streets" evokes larceny in the heart. Matti Sternweiss, the ungainly, studious child wonder in Krimsk, now the cerebral catcher for the St. Louis Browns, is scheming to fix Saturday's game against the pennant-contending Detroit Tigers.

It is an American Sabbath: Prohibition, bookies, the criminal syndicate, the Hiberian fellowship of the police brass, hometown blondes, a bootlegging rabbi, and big league baseball. It is also Krimsk in America: Boruch Levi, the successful junkman, confiscates his zany, crippled brother-in-law Barasch's sizable bets; Barasch's lusty wife, Malka, has her own connubial reasons for wanting to stop the gambling; the chief of police fatefully inspires his loyal disciple, Boruch Levi, to bring Matti before the Krimsker Rebbe on the Sabbath in order to preserve the purity of the national pastime.

Recluse and wonder-worker, messianist and pragmatist, the Krimsker Rebbe navigates the muddy Mississippi River, haunted by a recurring prophetic vision of Pharaoh's blood-red Nile. In the final, decisive innings, with Matti crouched behind home plate, it will come down to Ty Cobb versus the kabbalah.

Richly imagined, populated with robust, complex characters, Big League Dreams is a profoundly original, inspiring, and comic creation. It is the second volume in the series Small Worlds, which follows the people of Krimsk and their descendants in America, Russia, Poland, and Israel. In each volume Allen Hoffman draws on his deep knowledge of Jewish religion and history to evoke the finite yet infinite "small worlds" his characters inhabit.

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Small Worlds

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Classic in its vision and generosity, this extraordinary novel follows the lives and loves of the villagers of Krimsk, a small Hasidic settlement in Eastern Europe, in 1903.

A selection of the Jewish Book Club

The Russians called it Krimsk; the Poles called it Kromsk, but it was mainly the Jews who lived there. They called it whatever their hosts preferred. Krimsk-so it was called in 1903-had hills and valleys, forests not far from town, pastures and Welds close by . . .

In the little town of Krimsk the Jews are about to celebrate Tisha B'Av, the day of mourning marking the destruction of the holy Temple in Jerusalem. The teacher has instructed the young pupils in his primary class. And the Krimskers' beloved rebbe, who has secluded himself in his study for the past five years, has suddenly, mysteriously emerged on the eve of the holiday. But the joy of his congregants at seeing him is to be shortlived. For this Tisha B'Av will be a time of strange and momentous events, a time that will change their lives forever.

Across the river is the Polish town of Krimichak, where dwells the rebbe's rival for power, Grannie Zara. The women of Krimsk have always secretly crossed the river to consult her, and even on this fateful night, one determined woman and one small boy from the primary class unwisely feel the need to visit her. There have been pogroms nearby, and the relationship between the people of the two towns, always uneasy, is in danger of igniting.

On this night, too, the rebbe and his wife are discussing a groom for their only daughter, who has reached the age to stand under the wedding canopy. The rebbe summons to their home the man he has chosen. In another part of town, a different young man, a stranger swept up in the revolutionary ferment stirring all of Russia, stops for a while at the Angel of Death, the empty new synagogue. It is he who will face the angry mob from Krimichak as it crosses the bridge into Krimsk-with consequences that will affect and astonish everyone.

Small Worlds is the first in a series of novels concerning the people of Krimsk and their descendants in America, Poland, Russia, and Israel. In each volume Allen Hoffman draws on his deep knowledge of Jewish religion and history to evoke the "small worlds" his characters inhabit.

Echoes of Jewish literary tradition can be heard in Small Worlds, especially the mystical realism of Isaac Bashevis Singer and the poignant humor of Sholom Aleichem, on whose tales Fiddler on the Roof is based.

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