The ShawlBook |
Ozick contributes a dense and accomplished gem to the Jewish-American literary tradition.
New York native Cynthia Ozick's The Shawl, a novella combining the eponymous short story she published in 1981 and its sequel, "Rosa," which she wrote three years later, tells the story of Rosa Lublin, a Polish Holocaust survivor. After inexplicably destroying her own store in New York City years after her captivity in a Nazi prison camp, Rosa moves to Florida to start over. Haunted by the fantasy that her young daughter Magda, who met a tragic end in Poland, is still alive, Rosa holds a terrible grudge against her niece/benefactor Stella, who she believes was involved in Magda's death. To Rosa, Stella is an angel of death, a monster who, like the Nazis, has stolen her life. Ozick succeeds tremendously in portraying this madness with prose as manically energetic as her raving protagonist, balancing it with humorous repartee between Rosa and an optimistic old flirt named Simon Persky; however, Rosa's responses to a letter from Stella appear stilted in comparison. Funny, heartbreaking, hallucinatory, and rhythmically impeccable, The Shawl stands out not only for its grappling with the Jewish-American refugee experience but for the lushness of Ozick's voice.