Richard Zimler continues the Sephardic Cycle series with this story of the last surviving members of the Zarco family. During World War II, a kind, brave piano teacher hides young Benjamin, AKA Benni — while the child’s cousin, Shelly, is forced into a ghetto in Poland. Benni settles in Montreal before ending up in New York, where he raises a family. The death of his wife devastates him, and he turns to the study of kabbalah to understand life’s mysteries.
Shelly is in many ways Benni’s opposite. An extroverted bisexual man, he pursues many relationships for both pleasure and escape. When he begins a relationship with a troubled Canadian soldier who liberated Bergen-Belsen, his outlook changes. The young soldier, he finds, might have a connection to one of the cousins’ lost family members.
Following the family’s history through war, love, and loss, these six beautifully written, nonlinear chapters lead the reader back and forth in time from Poland to New York, Boston, and Montreal. They tell the incandescent story of the deep bonds that help Benni and Shelly survive the trauma of war. Their children and grandchildren preserve these bonds as they learn about the ones who came before.