There are random collections of stories in the world, and the collections that say, follow the same character through life, or perhaps several people in one town. These stories follow the extended family of the Kaplowitz clan (three sisters—Bobbie, Sylvia, and Fanny, plus their children and grandchildren), from the old country to the new world, across generations as they settle into Chicago, New York, New Haven, and Miami. The title story (a secret revealed by an improper handling of a Mixmaster) was included in a volume of Best American Short Stories, and several others warranted a second read. I can’t tell you how much I loved the line in The Bad Jew, which itself follows the form of a Passover Seder reading gone wrong, where she says “The entire content of Jewish services is ‘God’s good, we’re Jewish, God’s good, we’re Jewish’, I’d say to one of my more observant cousins. ‘And I’m not so sure God’s good.’” But this is just scratching the surface of In Case We’re Separated. These stories actually follow the poetic form of a double sestina. Yes, Mattison has carefully crafted and structured twelve stories, plus one coda, such that, per the author’s note, each story uses related topics the way the poem uses related words. The images that repeat, and appear in every story, include a glass of water, a sharp point, a cord, a mouth, an exchange, and a map that may be wrong. Gimmick, yes, but so is a sonnet.— Daniel Goldin
Spanning the length and breadth of the twentieth century, Alice Mattison's masterful In Case We're Separated looks at a family of Jewish immigrants in the 1920s and 1930s and follows the urban, emotionally turbulent lives of their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren against a backdrop of political assassination, the Vietnam War, and the AIDS epidemic. Beginning with the title story, which introduces Bobbie Kaplowitz--a single mother in 1954 Brooklyn whose lover is married and whose understanding of life is changed by a broken kitchen appliance--Mattison displays her unparalleled gift for storytelling and for creating rich, multidimensional characters, a gift that has led the Los Angeles Times to praise her as "a writer's writer."
“Devastating.... Mattison’s stories have an arresting focus and navigate the cliches of Jewish-American fiction firmly and knowingly.”
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Radiant... [In Case We’re Seperated] is a book filled with felicitous writing and ferocious insight.”
-New York Times Book Review
“You’ll want to read it a second time.”
-Milwaukee Journal Sentinel