This novel is written in two narrative threads: one in first person, as Brik travels with Rora through eastern Europe, and one in third person, as Brik imagines Lazarus and Olga Averbuch’s lives. Hemon connects the two narratives in many ways – location and history, characters' names, modern action reflecting not-so ancient history. Whether this is meant to be taken as Brik’s unconscious personalization of Lazarus’s story or as coincidence is unimportant: Hemon knows that we are irrevocably connected to our history.
Hemon has a fantastic way with the English language (which is not his native tongue), creating vivid and astute imagery, some funny: Brik and Rora have coffee at a new Starbucks “that smelled of fresh toxic paint and some extraordinary shittychino”; and some heartbreaking: after a fight with his very American wife, Brik realizes that “[t]he baggage I dragged around the eastern lands contained the tortured corpses of our good intentions.” The vigorous text of the novel is also interspersed with and supported by haunting black and white photographs, some provided by the Chicago Historical Society and some taken by the author’s colleague, photographer Velibor Bozovic.
Deftly comparing the anti-radical panic of early 20th century America with post-9/11 concerns, and imbuing the nameless faces of the displaced immigrant masses with humanity, The Lazarus Project is a thoughtful, provocative and vibrant novel by an author whose voice should be heard.