"This intricate, thoughtful collection explores the inexorable complexities of relationships and religion. . . . Shrayer’s eight delicate stories trace his characters’ diverse struggles against the limits of tradition and culture."—Booklist
"Yom Kippur in Amsterdam follows the efforts of Russian Jewish immigrants to come to terms with their pasts as they try to build new lives in America. . . . His writing has qualities of humor, soulfulness and insight."—The Jewish Week
"Give another cheer for immigration, which has given us the unique voice of Maxim Shrayer . . . a sense of longing suffuses all the stories. . . . the exquisitely precise vocabulary manages to locate these characters in the present."—MultiCultural Journal
"[Shrayer’s book] beckons the reader to conversation like an open café."—The Jewish Advocate
Whether set in Maxim D. Shrayer’s native Russia or in North America and Western Europe, the eight stories in this collection explore emotionally intricate relationships that cross traditional boundaries of ethnicity, religion, and culture. Tracing the lives, obsessions, and aspirations of Jewish-Russian immigrants, these poignant, humorous, and tender stories create an expansive portrait of individuals struggling to come to terms with ghosts of their European pasts while simultaneously seeking to build new lives in their American present.
The title story follows Jake Glaz, a young Jewish man apprehensive about marrying a Catholic woman. After realizing Erin will not convert, Jake leaves the United States to spend Yom Kippur in Amsterdam, “a beautiful place for a Jew to atone.” In “Sonetchka” a literary scholar and his former girlfriend from Moscow reunite in her suburban Connecticut apartment. As they reminisce about their Soviet youth and quietly admire each other’s professional successes, both wrestle with the curious mix of prosperity, loneliness, and insecurity that defines their lives in the United States.
Yom Kippur in Amsterdam takes the immigrant narrative into the twenty-first century. Emerging from the traditions of Isaac Babel, Vladimir Nabokov, and Isaac Bashevis Singer, Shrayer’s vibrant literary voice significantly contributes to the evolution of Jewish writing in America.
Maxim D. Shrayer is professor of Russian, English, and Jewish Studies at Boston College. Among his books are The World of Nabokov’s Stories, Russian Poet/Soviet Jew, and the literary memoir Waiting for America: A Story of Emigration. A bilingual author and translator, Shrayer won the National Jewish Book Award for the two-volume Anthology of Jewish-Russian Literature.