With the publication this week of his debut novel A Replacement Life by New York based publisher HarperCollins Boris Fishman joins the ranks of fellow writers of The Little Odessa Renaissance who immigrated from the Soviet Union to The United States and Canada as children including Gary Shteyngart, David Bezmogis, Anya Ulinich, Nadia Kalman, and Ellen Litman all of whom explore the theme of having one foot in Russian and the other in American culture.
Fishman’s protagonist Slava Gelman is an aspiring writer who fabricates Holocaust narratives for fraudulent reparation applications on behalf of Russian Jewish immigrants of his grandparents’ generation. In my New York Journal of Books review of the novel I write, “Slava knows that to make his stories convincing he has to get the details right, and despite the leaps of faith Fishman demands he provides more than enough correct details and well crafted figurative turns of phrase to convince most readers to go along with him—and those who do will be amply rewarded by this multidimensional and handsomely written debut novel.”
I really enjoyed reading A Replacement Life, but besides “the leaps of faith” my other reservation concerns the way Fishman portrays his fellow immigrants from the former Soviet Union as a community of liars and cheats. I hope that defamatory characterization is an overly broad generalization. For a more detailed discussion of the novel read my New York Journal of Books review.