I found this to be an interesting book but a very slow read. For whatever reason I struggled to get through this book.
I nearly gave up on this because it just wasn't grabbing me, but I kept plugging away in the hope that eventually I'd get as enthused as I was by Kavalier and Clay. But it never happened. The plot - an alternative history look at what might have happened had the post holocaust Jews been unable to settle in Israel after WWII and instead were granted temporary residence in Alaska -- was just far fetched enough to intrigue me. And I have to admit that the strange question of who killed the heroin addicted, gay potential Messiah and ex-wonder child who was also a chess prodigy hooked me once I got into it. But in the end the book just didn't deliver. And what's every bit as much of a mystery as the question about the son of the rabbi who was murdered in the flea-bitten hotel room he'd been living in is how on earth this novel could possibly have won two prestigious awards for science fiction writing!!
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. However, if you are not Jewish, I am not sure that you would understand the nuances and flavor of this story. It was well written and extremely entertaining, but if you are not Jewish, you probably won't get the humor or even the underlying sadness of this story. L'Chaim.
First of all, I'm not jewish and I love the film noir, hard boiled detective genre. It's a challenging read for anybody who is not really familiar with jewish culture/history.....think of this book as a jewish version of "The Big Sleep"...lots of questions and a very complicated, multi leveled plot, and lots of yiddish slang set in an alternate history. The setting is also very atomspheric, although I will concede that readers unfamiliar with jewish humor/culture will get left out.
I am not done with this book, yet. But, I am pretty into it as it is picking up speed and I am picking up Yiddish. I thought it might be helpful to suggest this link: http://www.yiddishdictionaryonline.com/ I have it up on my cell phone for when I can't figure out the Yiddish words from context. Happy Reading!