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Blending irony with pathos, the mythical with the mundane, this collection of 13 stories gives voice to a rich mix of characters living outside traditional patterns of identity in a world of complex migrations and tumultuous change.
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The characters of these 13 stories are always just a little bit "other"--strangers struggling to belong or trying to understand the complexities of life. The opening story, "Return to Zion," concerns a Jew named Odysseus who plans an intricate odyssey to the Holy Land but never goes anywhere. In "Kafka in Bronteland," a woman lives in the moors that inspired Emily Bronte, reads Kafka with great passion, and bonds with the woman she tutors in English over a copy of the Qur'an. There are strange, stubborn family stories, such as "The Other Mr. Perella," in which a man searches for a family among those who coincidentally have similar names, and in the volume closer, "A Letter from Josef K.," a man serving a life sentence in prison finds solace in reading and gardening. Yellin's stories may be mostly just brief vignettes, but they are also haunting because the people in them are strangely familiar in their otherness. Regina Schroeder
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