“The Man Who Loved His Wife” by Jennifer Anne Moses. Woodstock, N.Y.: Mayapple Press, 2021. 166 pages. $20.95.
This is a collection of Goldilocks short stories — you know, not too long, not too short, just right.
Not only does author Jennifer Anne Moses reach for perfection in the stories’ length, but each is a well-written gem, peopled with strong, strange-verging-on-weird characters, whose predicaments inexplicably mattered very much to me. Well, maybe not so inexplicable, for, as I mentioned, Moses, who grew up in what she calls “the idealized suburban Virginia of the 1960s,” can write.
In “The Uncircumcised,” we meet Felder, who as a child had hidden in a closet with his family’s maid Minnie until the SS had taken away his whole family. Minnie took him home, and he survived the war until the Yanks arrived. In three years, he was in New Orleans working for “a cousin of a cousin” on a loading dock.
Many years later, his daughter Rhonda gave him a dog whom he named Esther, after his sister who had been murdered in Bergen-Belsen.
Shortly after her arrival, Esther began speaking to him in Yiddish.
From Louisiana, where Moses lived for a time with her husband and three children, the stories shift to Israel. There, Moses brings to life the resentment felt by so many non-religious Israelis toward the haredi Orthodox. In “The Holy Messiah,” a secular Israeli father loses his son twice — once to the world of the haredim and then in an explosion in a tunnel in Gaza during one of the wars. He had to serve, his father explains, because unlike his fellow haredim, “who are so busy with their holy books, etc., they can’t be bothered” to serve in the IDF, his son Itai “had become a religious fanatic too late.”
We’re back in Louisiana for “The Man Who Loved His Wife.” Martin’s Jewish wife, who was dying of a brain tumor, saw Jesus in a dream, accepted him as her savior and demanded that her husband give her a Christian funeral. When the Christian man tries to comply with her wishes, her family explodes in anger.
These stories deal with sex matter-of-factly. Laura’s cousin Michelle is getting married (“My Cousin’s Heart”). Michelle was very attractive. “Button nose covered in freckles. Sparkly green eyes. Great legs. Plus she put out big time, but unlike the more unsavory girls, Michelle was not generally known as an easy lay, even though she boinked her way all through senior year and then, if she can be believed, all the way through Princeton … .”
Risqué, yes, not pornographic, but if that kind of thing bothers you, stay away from “The Man Who Loved His Wife.”
Otherwise, this collection is highly recommended.
Aaron Leibel’s memoir, “Figs and Alligators: An American Immigrants’s Life in Israel in the 1970s and 1980s” (Chickadee Prince Books), is available for purchase online.