by Christopher Ruthe
This story centres on two lives and their families. Lamont Williams is an African American, raised by his beloved grandmother — a loving and thoughtful boy threatening to rise above the barricades he faces as a New York Black only to be wrongfully convicted of being party to a crime he was innocent of.
Released from 6 years in prison he gets a probationary job as janitor in a local hospital. There he meets an aged Holocaust survivor. And at the end of their friendship, the survivor culled finally by cancer, Lamont is subject to further injustice when he is sacked from his job on the false allegations of the old man’s beneficiaries saying Lamont had stolen a silver menorah (Jewish candle stick).
Adam Zignelik is a history professor having a midlife crisis — losing his job, separating from his wife, the distraught by that self -caused loss. His wake-up call is when he is encouraged to investigate the history of the American Army’s release of Holocaust survivors from the numerous extermination camps as Germany was being defeated in 1945.
This multi-layered exploration of closeness and separation, achievement and loss of memory and the mind, responsibility and non responsibility, its rejection is a moving portrayal of the human condition. For the last 40 pages the words on the page were read though a veil of tears. Not of sorrow, but like those that come from listening to a great Mozart concerto, or late Beethoven piano sonata, revealing the hope arising from decency and honour.
Perlman’s research for this book was a meticulous as that of the historian Adam Zignelik. He states in his Author’s note, “Apart from a few minor exceptions, the mid-twentieth-century events depicted here all occurred and are on the historical record”. The list of sources, almost unique in fiction, are listed.
In the early 21st century where politics is more about feelings than fact, where truth is an irritant threatening to ruin fine spin, this book is the testament you should read. And the greatest stain on humanity’s history shall never be forgotten.