This is an absolutely brilliant, beautiful, touching, and incisive novel by the writer of The Natural and the various story collections I’ve been reading recently. It’s based on a reworking of one of his previous stories in which we watch the terror and dread of a storekeeper as an empty store on his street is being reworked as a new deli. His own store, a former deli turned more into a grocery is middling, and this seems in part (and certainly this is his perception) because of the generalized and specific anti-semitism of his neighbors. They don’t mind begging credit off a Jewish storekeeper, refusing to pay, and sneering at his expectations that he’s paid back. The new store owner’s being German does not help to allay his fear.
One night Morris, the storekeeper, is robbed at gunpoint and receives a head injury when he’s pistol-whipped. This opens up the real possibility that his store will go under. But luckily a young Italan boy moved in from the West, who smokes and drinks and runs his mouth, says he will help out and in the interim, the store starts recovering. The argument seems be that the very goyish Frank is popular while the very Jewish Morris is not. Frank has some kind of secret, it’s very clear, and he certainly has untrustworthy (but not really evil or cruel) intentions with Morris’s daughter.
This novel is about the mundane terrors of everyday life and the few guarantees of life and especially about the limits of human good.