Thursday, July 1, 2010

I'll Have The Frozen Rabbi Please


The oldest thing I have in my freezer right now is a 48 count pack of fish sticks I bought in 2007. In the intervening 3 years I have purchased and consumed other fish sticks. I'm not sure why the catch of whatever day it was in 2007 is still in my freezer awaiting an archaeological expedition to make it to the oven. Maybe I just like knowing they are there at the ready? They have survived numerous minor power outages and 2 outages that lasted more than 3 hours. I have to say I'm a little proud of them.

However, I would trade them in for one Frozen Rabbi. It sounds like a drink doesn't it? "I'll have the Frozen Rabbi, shaken not stirred" and nice as that might be a Frozen Rabbi also makes a terrific novel. Ask for a Frozen Rabbi at your local independent bookstore and you will get a novel that you will love not the do-you-have-Prince-Albert-in-a-can kind of response that you might expect thanks to author Steve Stern.

Fifteen year old Bernie Karp lives with his family in Memphis Tennessee. Everything is all pretty typical. Then one day when Bernie's looking for some food out from the fridge comes a frozen old dude. Go figure. Young Bernie Karp finds the frozen Rabbi in his parents' basement freezer. The Ice Age began generations ago for Rabbi Eliezer ben Zephyr when he was accidentally frozen while meditating and was presumed dead by his colleauges. Later he was found in-cased in a block of ice by a Polish laborer and has been in that family's care ever since. Their own lost Ark of the Covenant to keep and preserve. The Rab-sicle has been a deaf, dumb and blind family burden through the worst the 20th century had to offer for Jews. He has been protected by the family until he defrosts one day in Memphis in 1999.

The big thaw makes young Bernie a bit of a mystic. He has out of body experiences, becomes a seeker of knowledge and has hundreds of questions for the Rabbi. The Rabbi on the other hand becomes more secular and more convinced that America is a paradise every day. The Rabbi bites into every indulgence that contemporary life has to offer. Of course he attracts flocks of followers and his New House of Enlightenment is an immediate successful.

Telling me that a book is funny is the kiss of death. There have been amusing moments in many novels I have read but I have always found that the phrase 'comic novel' is an oxymoron. I have been proved wrong. Steve Stern can write funny. There is funny end to end in The Frozen Rabbi. Everything from slapstick to sarcasm. There is also an outstanding novel in there. From the historical elements surrounding the Rabbi's travels in his ice cube disguise to Stern's dovetailing Bernie's new spirituality into the Rabbi's hedonism. The Frozen Rabbi is waiting to make you laugh so stop waisting time and go get him already.

It all makes me wonder what Walt Disney will do when he gets thawed out.

P.S. I think the cover on The Frozen Rabbi is excellent--very appealing. It reminds me slightly of the jacket of a very different novel Free Food For Millionaires. I know. It's the top hat. This is the cover on the hardcover edition and it is much nicer than the paperback cover.
Millionaires is a wonderful debut novel about the daughter of Korean immigrants finding her own way in the world. The daughter, Casey, is just one of many fabulous characters  throughout the book. Millionaires was a big, lovely surprise for me. I am looking forward to the authors next book. So I wishe she would hurry up.

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