Review GPA

Review GPA: HOPE: A TRAGEDY by Shalom Auslander

In Review GPA, we translate reviews of notable new books into letter grades and determine a grade point average.

Hope: A Tragedy by Shalom Auslander

Publication Date: January 12, 2012

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publisher: Riverhead Books

Publisher’s Synopsis:

The rural town of Stockton, New York, is famous for nothing: No one was born there, no one died there, nothing of any historical import at all has ever happened there, which is why Solomon Kugel, like other urbanites fleeing their pasts and histories, decided to move his wife and young son there. To begin again. To start anew. But it isn’t quite working out that way. His ailing mother stubbornly holds on to life, and won’t stop reminiscing about the Nazi concentration camps she never actually suffered through. To complicate matters further, some lunatic is burning down farmhouses just like the one he bought. And when, one night, Kugel discovers history-a living, breathing, thought-to-be-dead specimen of history-hiding upstairs in his attic, bad quickly becomes worse.

The critically acclaimed writer Shalom Auslander’s debut novel is a hilarious and disquieting examination of the burdens and abuse of history, propelled with unstoppable rhythm and filled with existential musings and mordant wit. It is a comic and compelling story of the hopeless longing to be free of those pasts that haunt our every present.

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From The New York Times review by Janet Maslin:

Gold Star:

“It’s a tall order for Mr. Auslander to raise an essentially comic novel to this level of moral contemplation. Yet “Hope: A Tragedy” succeeds shockingly well.”

Demerit:

None

Grade: A-

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From The Los Angeles Times review by David Ulin

Gold Star:

” I’m an admirer of Auslander’s, and not just because I think he’s onto something. He’s also willfully outrageous, a black humorist with an Old Testament moralist’s heart.

Demerit:

“Still, in the end, this remains the novel’s one abiding problem, that its narrative never fully resonates.

Grade: B

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From The Dallas Morning News review by Michael Merschel

Gold Star:

“But once you see past the affronts, and forgive yourself for laughing at punch lines that mention Bergen-Belsen, you will respect author Shalom Auslander for his audacity. What he has pulled off is not just comedy about the darkest of topics, it is comedic in the highest and best sense of the term.”

Demerit:

“…his secondary characters come across more like props than fully formed people…”

Grade: A/A-

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From The Millions review by Jessica Freeman-Slade

Gold Star:

“If you’re willing to sacrifice history’s most sacred cows, and to let your imagination wander far enough to contemplate the Holocaust’s signature martyr as a squirrel-eating, bottle-throwing old crone, then yes, you’ll chuckle at Solomon’s dilemma.”

Demerit:

None

Grade: A-

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From the Vol. 1 Brooklyn review by Joe Winkler:

Gold Star:

“The first sixty pages of the book reads as a pitch-perfect satire on the hazards of the culture of remembrance our world cultivates.”

Demerit:

“For the most part, though, the parts lack complete coherence. They do not gel together to create a larger whole, a novelistic effort.

Grade: B+

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Review GPA: 3.51 (B+/A-)