Press of Long Island University
and Zolton Zeller arrive on Ellis Island at the end of the 19th
century with the hopes of raising their family in a social and
political climate more hospitable than their native Poland. Years
later, as Sofia lies dying, she asks her first-generation American
sons, Sherman and Abe, to pledge to stick together and protect
their younger sister. Pat Kaufman’s novel, Perpetual Kin,
is about the Zellers, caught between Old and New World traditions
as they struggle to overcome the challenges that face immigrants.
This tender, lyrical and often uproarious account of these passionate
people attempting to bridge the gap between their Jewish heritage
and the new world in which they find themselves, chronicles three
generations of New Yorkers on their journey from New York’s
Lower East Side to Park Avenue. Kaufman “has a sharp-shooter's
eye for the comedy, tragedy and inanity of family dynamics and
uses it to reveal piercing lessons about troubles and disasters
of love, power, and loyalty,” says Nat Simeon, a professor
at St. Louis University.
the Reviewer's Say...
style is brisk and tender, a lyrical mockery belying an affectionate
sentiment towards her subject and subjects. Witty. Wry humor.
A delight to read.” --Martin Tucker, Editor Confrontation
Kaufman deploys Jane Austen-like social analysis and Malumud-like
economy of language to depict three generations of New Yorkers
on their way from the Lower East Side to Park Avenue and, finally,
to Westchester. She has a sharpshooter's eye for the comedy, tragedy
and inanity of family dynamics and uses it to reveal piercing
lessons about troubles and disasters of love, power, and loyalty.”
--Nat Simon, Professor, St. Louis University
Kaufman’s book is a marvelously humane engagement with the
truth that kinship—the contradictory communion of irreconcilables—lasts
in perpetuity, even when nothing else does; that dealing with
this, as best we can, gives meaning to the living and the dead.”
--Macdara Woods, Poet, Aosdána
do I value in this novel? Its creation of people—real ones.
They are alive, vital, and I was emotionally engaged with them
throughout. Though they have their virtues and strengths, they
are mainly flawed, like us all. This brings me to another of the
strengths of Pat Kaufman's writing—her honesty. It is of
the steely, unflinching kind; she doesn't present a pretty or
cheery picture of life. Yet there is humor throughout; not jokes
or one-liners, but the humor that springs from the nature of her
characters. The prose is clear, simple and concise; it flows—not
smoothly but with the jerky, random, headlong momentum of life.
Pat Kaufman has the innate instincts of a true writer. She covers
the spans of lives by hitting on the important moments, thus distilling
these lives into set pieces that resonate. This is a novel conceived
with intelligence; it's about things that matter. Read Perpetual
Kin; you will be rewarded. --Phillip Routh, novelist