Life is often difficult with the decisions and directions we choose to follow. When our choices become attached to us through divorce and shared custody it makes for an often dramatic, angry, funny, sad, and desparate ride.
In A Short History of a Tall Jew by Dennis Danziger, we are both charmed and dismayed by the unique and often funny, but serious quirks, encountered by Phillip Lachman as he begins the search for a second wife, the perfect mother for his teenage children.
As with most children there is drama, kindness, amusement, and irritation, yet through it all Phillip maintains his sense of humor and fun. When others would be overwhelmed, he allows himself very little if any self-pity, and if the approach he takes in trying to find a bride is not always well thought out, it’s at least undertaken in a very self-depreciating manner. Though the entire process, Phillip maintains an unhealthy and depressive relationship with the court system, brought on through continued summons from his ex-wife. In a continued effort to make him suffer and to gain custody of the kids, she finds every detail she can to return to court, and Phillip finds the system does not have much sympathy for either him or his plight. Can he keep his promise to both himself and his children to find a wife by the following Valentine’s Day, or is he living in a dream world?
Danziger has a wonderful sense of the comedic and can seem to turn what appears to be depressive incidents into humorous and interesting dialogue. The by-play between Phillip and his children is heartfelt, and yet you can see the realism of what you see every day in teenagers everywhere. Phillip has such a unique way of dealing with the daily drama you can’t help but be amused. His characters are bright and alive, creating visuals that bring them to life. His interaction with both his ex-wife and the court system can be felt in detail through the telling, and the way Danziger takes the scene from dismay to humor and insight keeps the pages turning.
The comedy and drama are well interwoven, creating such interesting contrasts and complements that the novel is hard to put down. This is a wonderful, well-told tale of life as we live it. I know of many people these days in such circumstances, and if those we know were able to handle the circumstances and situations with such aplomb and ease there would be much less depression in the world.
If you love the drama of a somewhat over-the-top life, and enjoy the creativity of witty interludes, you will enjoy the sometimes serious and most times humorous tale told in this story.
I would recommend A Short History of a Tall Jew for a book club or reading group. It is full of life and interesting choices, and in the end it all comes together for the real heroes of the book. The story takes on the challenges and shadows created in our world today, bringing them to the fore and spreading them before us in a smorgasbord of decisions, impacting our own future and those around us. The humor is spot on and the flow is impressive.