It’s a myth, it’s a fable, it’s something like a newly discovered religious text. In a world with a seemingly endless supply of novels about the ends-of-the-earth reaching consequences of WWII and the Holocaust, The Lost Shtetl is a wondrous left turn – the story of one tiny Jewish village in Poland that the Nazis missed and time forgot. Learn along with the villagers of the past horrors they escaped and the present horrors (television, tourists, inflation, and postal codes, yech!) of the world that’s discovered them. With the village itself as a sly, sighing narrator, Gross has written a clever, affecting parable of the ways history, sooner or later, reaches us all.— Chris Lee
In The Lost Shtetl, Kreskol, a Jewish settlement in present-day Poland, is discovered when, after a matrimonial fallout, the wife leaves town, the husband follows suit, and the town sends out a search party of one, a mamzer baker’s apprentice whom nobody will miss. When Yankel (the baker) is admitted to a hospital in nearby Smolskie, the cat’s out of the bag, or at least it will be if the medical staff don’t decide he’s either delusional or scamming them. On top of the circuitous paths of Yankel, Pesha, and Ishmael (the estranged couple), the newly discovered town must contend with greed, a tourism boom, an ideological rabbinical battle, and a good dollop of antisemitism. Meanwhile, the runaways must contend with what kind of people (and Jews) they are going to be, now that their reality rug has been pulled out from beneath them. When the copy for a novel name checks Gary Shteyngart, Michael Chabon, and Nathan Englander, what jazzy comparison is left for me? Would it be too much for me to call this philosophical and often hilarious novel the bastard child of Isaac Bashevis Singer and Cynthia Ozick?— Daniel Goldin
A remarkable debut novel--written with the fearless imagination of Michael Chabon and the piercing humor of Gary Shteyngart--about a small Jewish village in the Polish forest that is so secluded no one knows it exists . . . until now.
What if there was a town that history missed?
For decades, the tiny Jewish shtetl of Kreskol existed in happy isolation, virtually untouched and unchanged. Spared by the Holocaust and the Cold War, its residents enjoyed remarkable peace. It missed out on cars, and electricity, and the internet, and indoor plumbing. But when a marriage dispute spins out of control, the whole town comes crashing into the twenty-first century.
Pesha Lindauer, who has just suffered an ugly, acrimonious divorce, suddenly disappears. A day later, her husband goes after her, setting off a panic among the town elders. They send a woefully unprepared outcast named Yankel Lewinkopf out into the wider world to alert the Polish authorities.
Venturing beyond the remote safety of Kreskol, Yankel is confronted by the beauty and the ravages of the modern-day outside world - and his reception is met with a confusing mix of disbelief, condescension, and unexpected kindness. When the truth eventually surfaces, his story and the existence of Kreskol make headlines nationwide.
Returning Yankel to Kreskol, the Polish government plans to reintegrate the town that time forgot. Yet in doing so, the devious origins of its disappearance come to the light. And what has become of the mystery of Pesha and her former husband? Divided between those embracing change and those clinging to its old world ways, the people of Kreskol will have to find a way to come together . . . or risk their village disappearing for good.
Supplemental enhancement PDF accompanies the audiobook.