When I was five, I developed a morbid fascination with the chicken fillets in my grandmother’s freezer. I was absolutely sure that they were the remains of her late, misanthropic cat Griffer. I was denied animal companionship for the first five years of my life because we lived in a no-pets apartment. Luckily, I was an inventive kid. I had a slew of imaginary pets, Dead Griffer included. I don’t think my grandmother was particularly attached to Griffer (not enough to store him in the freezer, anyway), but I was convinced. I distinctly remember sneaking out of bed at night to pay my respects to the frozen chicken breasts.
In The Frozen Rabbi, the basement freezer houses something even better than cat fillets: a cryogenically preserved, nineteenth-century rabbi. Steve Stern cavorts across a century of Jewish history, through a pogrom, and across the Atlantic to tell the story of how Rabbi Eliezer ben Zephyr ended up in a freezer, where he is discovered by a hapless fifteen-year-old boy named Bernie. “Some people got taxidermied pets in the attic, we got a frozen rabbi in the basement,” says Bernie’s father. Bernie unwittingly thaws the rabbi during a blackout and unleashes him on Memphis, setting off a chain of mayhem and miracles that will keep you on the edge of your beach chair until the last, scintillating sentence.
Steve Stern is a born storyteller. He lets absurd situations carry the plot while downplaying their absurdity. The result is understated, hilarious, and bursting with Steve Stern’s uncorked enthusiasm. I’d like to imagine that most authors have fun writing their books, but rarely have I seen such tangible evidence as in The Frozen Rabbi. Better still, it’s now out in paperback! Get thee to thy local bookstore.
We’re giving away three copies this week. To enter, just leave a comment on our blog or our Facebook page.
– Jordan Castelloe, Intern
Praise for The Frozen Rabbi:
A New York Times Editor’s Choice
“[An] extraordinary story… recounted by Stern with manic virtuosity. The voracious pace lets Stern spill a hundred years of vivid Jewish history onto the page… He writes with piercing zeal.”
“Among the wonders awaiting the reader of Steve Stern’s exuberant new novel . . . is one of sheer logistics: How did he get all of this in here? The book’s 370 pages are packed to bursting with epic adventure and hysterical comedy, with grim poignancy and pointed satire, as Stern repeatedly shifts time and tone to craft a wildly entertaining tale.” —The Washington Post Book World
“In the 25 years since [Stern] published his first book, younger Jewish writers have run with a similar shtick . . . In Jonathan Safran Foer, you see Stern’s fanciful English, in Nicole Krauss his magic realism, in Michael Chabon his updated golems and gun-toting shtarkers. But Stern was there first, and with The Frozen Rabbi it feels like he may be last too: this is a novel so rich, full, funny, dense and exhausting, it feels like there may be no more Steve Stern books left to write—by him, or anyone else.” —The Toronto Globe and Mail
“[A] wonderfully entertaining, inventive new novel that evokes Amy Bloom, Michael Chabon and Isaac Bashevis Singer . . . Laugh-out-loud funny, the sort of humor that takes you by surprise.” —NPR.org
“A funny, profound and virtuosic work . . . This fast-paced romp through history . . . is a rare enchantment.” —San Francisco Chronicle