by Howard Jacobson
2014/ 342 pages

WHAT HAPPENED, IF IT HAPPENED happened quite a long time ago, probably a couple generations, and now folks are “sorry.” They’re “sorry” all the time. But in a ver small town in the southwestern corner of England a young man, Kevern (Coco)  Cohen, and a young woman, Ailinn Solomons (which may or may not be their genealogical names).

Folks who are “different” are suspected of something, knowing something, having something – they are watched closely. And after we’re more thoroughly introduced to some of the other characters and the nature of the thing that didn’t happen, it gets dark and really quite hard to read for awhile.

Other characters:
Edward Everett Phineas Zermansky (Everett to my friends, Phinny to my family)—
a neighbor- ? professor, artist, writer, thinker?
Demelza, Phinny’s wife
Densdell Kroplik – closest neighbor, a barber and the town historian –
Ez- Ailinn’s newish friend,
Eugene Gotkind , the detective, very suspicious of more than murder
Lorena Morganstern – deceased woman
Rozenwyn Feigenblat – librarian

As with The Road by Cormac McCarthy and On Such a Small Sea by Chang-rae Lee, how this world came about is not made really clear.  Where McCarthy’s book something big and physical took place like a bomb or the apocalypse, and apparently some environmental disaster in Lee’s book, in Jacobson’s novel there was  a horrendous economic collapse with racial or religious underpinnings which led to the guilt of everyone.

The Road is a bit scary, what will happen to our heroes?  On Such a Small Sea is somewhat fantastical and Lee really worked on creating a world. “J” is a puzzle, what the heck happened, (or didn’t happen) and quite satirical with a bit of love and humor thrown in – but there has to be horror, too, there has to be.

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