The Jewish Independent, Vancouver Review - A Book of Great Worth

Reviewed by: Cynthia Ramsay

Relating to the stories told

Creating characters for which readers care is not an easy task.

The Independent reviewed a variety of fiction for this Passover, mostly novels but one collection of short stories. Perhaps because of an inherent bias - the protagonist of the short stories is a newspaperman - it is the latter that most impressed this reviewer.

"I've been working on a series of stories about the character I call 'my father' - loosely based on my own father - for about thirty years," writes author Dave Margoshes in the afterword of A Book of Great Worth (Coteau Books, 2012). "Over that time, many of them have been published in magazines and several in previous short story collections. I had no intention of doing a series, but I liked that first story - it was 'The False Moustache' - a lot and wondered if I could use the character in other situations. The story had begun with a spark of truth - a story my father had told me many times about a foolish man he'd once known - and the spirit of my father, who had died a couple of years earlier. I had a number of such yarns from my father rattling around in my head, and I soon wrote several more of my own 'versions.' Gradually, over many years, I began to think I might have enough of these tales eventually to fill a book."

That first story, about how the narrator's father helps a young woman impregnated by an acquaintance of his from his days in Cleveland, was first published in 1985. Set in New York, to where both men had returned in the mid-1920s, it is representative of the structure of most of the 12 other stories in this collection. The narrator's father, Harry Morgenstern, who works at the Yiddish dialy newspaper in New York City (though we "meet" him before he gets that job), finds himself in a moral dilemma, generally of someone else's making (but not always), and he must negotiate himself and/or others through the situation.

Margoshes writes with great affection and respect for his father - and for his mother, when she is part of the story, and, frankly, for all of his "characters," even the schlemiels. Not only are the stories touching portraits of a good man, but also of New York, Yiddish journalism and life in the 1920s and '30s. They will evoke feelings of nostalgia in readers whose parents weren't even born yet in those decades. A Book of Great Worth lives up to its name. 

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