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Reviewed by Joshua Soule for Readers' Favorite
“The world changes in front of my eyes, time seems to pick up pace with every day, and I don’t have much time left to live in the past.”
The Jew tells the story of Alek Brodski, a young Jewish boy living in Poland post-World War II. Alek does his best to keep his head down and avoid trouble in this world that still shows intense prejudice and judgment, particularly in such a small town. When a gang of delinquent teenagers beats Alek, his mother, the widowed Zofia, does her best to find help for her son. She turns to the Police Chief, who unfortunately is too corrupt and political to provide aid and only makes matters worse. Zofia tries to relocate herself and her son to Israel, but they soon find this impossible as well. With nowhere left to turn, Zofia seeks the counsel of the local priest, and the discussion of converting to Christianity in order to protect her son becomes an internal struggle for the desperate mother. In the midst of all of this chaos, Alek finds companionship in an unlikely friend; Ela, a local prostitute. The two find an indescribable bond due to their resilience and compassion in the heart of turmoil. Ela teaches Alek the most important lesson of all.
Author Dominik Poleski pours a passion into The Jew that reveals a darker side of reality not often seen in literature. Almost immediately, I found sympathy for Alek as he endures horrendous treatment and violence from his peers without losing his good nature and gentleness. The depressive atmosphere of The Jew paints a realistic image and pulls no punches on the more difficult subjects – prejudice, racism, violence, and abuse - which were prevalent in the characters' lives. I appreciate the way The Jew made me feel a connection to the characters, and consider the significant impact of prejudice in the world.