Steve's Reviews > Hope: A Tragedy

Hope by Shalom Auslander
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's review
Mar 03, 2012

it was amazing
Read in March, 2012

Solomon Kugel moves to the rural NY state town of Stockton where he settles with his wife, young son, and veracity-challenged, dying mother into an old rural farmhouse. And the problems begin when he discovers a combative aged Anne Frank living in his attic. Coupled with problems with his eccentric, demented mother, the threat of an arsonist who is burning down local old, gentrified farmhouses and barns, his own fearful obsessive angst about death-life-guilt-hope, money difficulties due to all of the preceding coupled with Kugel's own over-the-top reactions to his problems, and the resultant strains in his relationship with his wife Bree, Kugel spirals farther and farther off the deep end. Further helping his downward spiral are a number of absurdist supporting characters: Kugel's childless sister Hannah and her husband who come to help with mother's last days, loudly and heroically trying to create the child they so desperately want; Kugel's both demanding and victimized tenant; the heartlessly practical and realistic real estate agent Eve; and Kugel's oft referred to never seen dour, comfortless psychiatrist Dr. Jove (the joyless, unsupportive, taciturn god stand-in). The book is less dense and less depressing Dostoevsky -- it's Waiting for Godot with Woodie Allen.

quotation sampler:

...Voltaire, on his deathbed, was asked to repudiate the devil. Is this, Voltaire asked, a time to be making enemies? (p 76)

...why, for that matter, did he still play along with this game of Mother's? Why didn't he ever just call her on it, make her at last admit the unhorrible truth; that life, tragically, hadn't been so bad? That, relatively speaking, they had been, unfortunately, fortunate? (p 108)

...death is more tragic than life, than any life, because every life has hope of some kind. (p 163) unexamined life is the only one worth living. Examined lives tended to end hanging by the neck in the shower. Life examiners tended to go out sucking on the barrel of a shotgun. (p 197)

Someone once said, Kugel said to Jonah, that a free man thinks of death least of all things. (p 199)

Wasn't pretending like this, lying, faking, his fingertips on her heart, a crease on his brow, the least he could do? ...were a few moments more that they could believe in some answer; wasn't that the kindest thing he could do for them? (p 215)

Fear cannot be without hope, nor hope without fear.. (p 232)

You should only worry, said Sergeant Frankel, about the things you can control. If I could control them, said Kugel, they wouldn't worry me. Exactly, said Sergeant Frankel. (p 249)

Winston Churchill's last words were this: I'm so bored with it all. (p 249)

I'm pro-choice, said Anne Frank, did you know that? ... I love God and hate his followers. (p 266)

Maybe Godot shows up in act three, my son; maybe the audience is just leaving too early. (p 277)

If I could find someone who'd let me hide away in their attic, rewriting my life story and waiting for the end, I'd do it in a minute. (p 156)


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