The Jew: Novel Based on a True Story
by Dominik Poleski

"We are Jews, and always will be, and we don’t have it written on our foreheads, and we don’t behave differently than anybody else."

Teenager Alek Brodski and his mother, the poor widow Zofia, live in a remote Polish village in the politically fraught 1960s. Everyone knows everyone else's business and knows that the two are the only Jews in town. When Alex, a loner who tries to avoid trouble, is set upon and beaten up by three boys, Zofia seeks justice from the fanatical Marxist police chief who offers only lies and evasions. Kindly Christian Maria Pavloska, who witnessed the incident, begins to help and counsel Zofia. Alex, intelligent and artistically talented but tormented by adolescent fears and fantasies, meets Ela, a young prostitute, when she speaks out to defend him from yet another attack. Ela returns to high school in hopes of seeing Alek and getting his help to study and improve her miserable life. Meanwhile, Zofia, having failed to get permission to emigrate with Alek to Israel, takes advice from Maria to help her son gain the social acceptance that he’ll need to become successful wherever he chooses to live.

Dominik Poleski was raised in Poland in the crucial time frame of this atmospheric story. His book is both a novel about a teenage boy grappling with political and philosophical upheavals forced on his nation by uncaring systems and a fictionalized memoir of the author’s own desperation and heartache as a young man who personally experienced the brunt of those systems. As a storyteller, Poleski writes in a practiced manner, using clear but stylish prose. As a memoirist, he frankly shares the intensity of the pain he went through. He has skillfully created two plot devices that give the story of Alek a pleasant, almost mystical denouement: a religious conversion and a youthful romance. A well-written historical novel, Poleski’s tale will resonate with thoughtful, socially conscious readers.

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