Reunion Book Club Discussion Questions
Shalom Auslander, Hope: A Tragedy. New York: Riverhead, 2012.
Hardcover edition: 978-1594488382
Paperback edition: 978-1594486463
Summary from the publisher's site:
Solomon Kugel left New York City to raise his family in a safer environment. Unfortunately, the rural enclave of Stockton, New York, is not the peaceful haven that he anticipated. An arsonist is running amok, Kugel can’t cover the mortgage—and a putrid smell is emanating from the farmhouse’s attic.
Instead of finding mouse droppings or a hibernating raccoon, Kugel discovers a withered woman who claims to be Anne Frank.
Kugel is not a practicing Jew. He doesn’t know where to buy matzoh. He’s never even read The Diary of Anne Frank. Yet, Kugel hews to his cultural stereotype in one crucial sense: he is crippled by guilt. Already torn between the needs of his wife, child, and aged mother, Kugel begins catering to his demanding attic dweller as well. Anne Frank adheres to the schedule she learned as a girl—sleeping through the day while writing the follow–up to her thirty–two–million–copy bestselling memoir at night. Downstairs, Kugel lies sleepless, listening to the steady “tap, tap, tap“ of Anne’s fingers on the keys and wondering if this is the night his house will be torched.
Filled with gut–wrenching pathos and brazenly irreverent hilarity, Hope: A Tragedy is wholly un–Kosher as it definitively confirms Shalom Auslander’s arrival as a major literary force.
Some questions to consider as you read:
·In the event of another Holocaust, would you hide Kugel in your attic? In what ways is he already living in an attic?
·Do you think Anne Frank is really living in Kugel’s attic? If not, what does her presence symbolize?
·Kugel’s mother thinks that Jonah—at three years old—should know about the Holocaust. Kugel, however, wants to raise his son in ignorance. At what age—if at all—should children be educated about difficult historical events? Is our devotion to “remembering“ atrocities like the Holocaust ultimately harmful or necessary?
·Are you offended by Auslander’s dark humor? Would the novel have been more or less potent without it?
Curiously (or not), many of the reviews of the novel that have appeared in the Jewish press have been less than glowing while the better reviews of the novel have appeared in "mainstream" press. Any idea why that might