|Rabbi Jeremiah Neumann & Father Isaiah O'Connor
(creator: L L Fine)
|Rabbi Jeremiah Neumann is 52 years old and "chief rabbi for several hundred good Jews spanning several blocks south of Brooklyn" in New York. They were "light orthodox. Clearly not religious - but still requiring rabbinical presence in their lives. And in their deaths, of course. And oh - oh, how they died. Jews, it seems, die a lot, apparently. Jeremiah used to joke about it with himself." But it was he who had to take their funerals.
He is happily married to Hannah and they have three daughters, the oldest of whom, Eva, has been virtually banished from him for six years and now, much against his will, is setting off with her Christian boyfriend, Miguel, to Germany where, as a newly qualified military medical officer, she is to specialize in emergency medicine.
Father Isaiah O'Connor is Jeremiah's identical twin. But he is a Roman Catholic priest, based on a church in Pendleton Street, Long Island. Like his brother, he is "far too comfortable solving other people's problems. It's much easier than just solving your own." But we are not told much about him.
L(iron) L Fine (1971- ) is an Israeli author of novels and children's books. He has been a partner and a creative director in an advertising agency, written several TV series, worked as a screenwriter and copywriter, and co-founded Mobile Dreams (producing "apps and more"). He says he was "reborn in 1993 when he met his magnificent future wife Bella, and re-reborn in 2001, when his eldest child took her first charming breath." He enjoys playing games and reading stories to his three children. He lives in Modi'in, a city partly in Israel and partly in the no-man's land between Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
At God's Mercy (2001)
The two brothers travel to Poland to find out who they truly are, but before that, Jeremiah, appalled by the fact that it is Germany of all places that his estranged daughter is going to, rips his shirt "tearing it apart, performing the Kri'ah - the Jewish sign of mourning for a dead relative." Such violence seems a little unconvincing for so otherwise moderate a man. When they get to Poland, they have to face bitter anti-Jewish discrimation in the grim little town of Nabradosky to where they have traced their origins.
Jeremiah gets beaten up and very nearly killed because he is a "Zyd", but nothing will make the pair of them give up examining the documents they have acquired that will reveal their true identities. This leads to a dramatic if not altogether convincing scene in the local cemetery where they dig up their mother's jewellery box containing a letter that reveals her name. But suddenly their lives are in danger once again - but Eva has surprisingly abandoned her military duties and travelled hundreds of miles to come to their aid!
There is no happy ending The author writes in an epilogue: "First, I would like to apologize. Sad stories are not my favorite. I prefer bright storylines, Hollywood plots, with a happy ending and facile catharsis. Yet, this book was stronger than me. Despite my ambitions, I could not write it any other way."
It's certainly an unusual book. The story of the twins turning out to be so different and yet so similar is an intriguing one even if it at times it gets unnecessarily confusing and the twins are not entirely brought to life. The author understandably knows more about the life of a rabbi than a priest but does not question the validity of either calling. What does totally preoccupy him is the Nazi persecution of the Jews. But on other subjects, the author is nothing if not tolerant: "Christian, Muslim, Buddhist....what does it matter, he's my twin!"
|I much prefer the paperback cover (below) to the Kindle one (above). It is a better match for the book's content..|