Forgiving Maximo Rothman
A. J. Sidransky
Berwick Court Publishing, Apr 16 2013, $16.95
In 2005 caregiver Marie Leguenza enters nonagenarian Jewish immigrant Max Redmond’s apartment in 195 Bennett Avenue. Instead of the usual greeting from the frail senior when she delivers his favorite Dominican food rather than the strict kosher of his daughter-in-law Rachel that he hates; she finds his battered body.
NYPD Detective Anatoly Kurchenko leads the investigation. Kurchenko notices Max’s Orthodox son Shalom Rothman (nee Steven Redmond) and Rachel seem indifferent to the family patriarch’s death as they focus on HaShem and their autistic son Baruch’s participation; refusing even to ride in a car to the hospital on a Jewish holy day. Tolya questions Dominican youngster Carlos Pabon who visits Max twice a week as part of his probation. On his last visit to Max, the old man advised Carlos re his absentee father that "life is too short to make enemies of those we love" though Redmond never forgave God for the Holocaust. The detective reads Max’s four decades of diaries seeking clues; but finds himself fascinated by Max’s journey from Nazi Germany to the Jewish town of Sosua in the Dominican Republic and finally upper Manhattan. This leads him to reflect on his estranged dad’s escape from Soviet Russia, the deaths of his sibling and mother, and their lapsed Judaism.
This is an excellent twisting historical that uses a police investigation as a springboard to explore six plus decades of Judaism with a focus on the good in the 1940s Dominican Republic and the 2005 cross culture reach out in Washington Heights, and the ugly of the Holocaust and 1970s Soviet Russia. This profound novel contains a fully developed cast and fascinating rotating subplots.