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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Hymie and the Angel by Norman Beim

Hymie and the Angel by Norman Beim. Emerson, New Jersey: Newconcept Press, © 1998. ISBN: 0-931231-09-4.

Hymie and his wife Frieda are Jewish immigrants living in New Jersey in the 1930's. Theirs is the seemingly perfect life: husband, wife, 2 kids. But their marriage is in danger of collapsing; they've come to take each other for granted, and have allowed the life to leach out of their relationship.

Hymie owns and tends bar for a living. Frieda keeps house, and tends to the children. As the story begins, Hymie befriends a ne'er-do-well stranger off the street, name of Adam, and puts him to work for some food. Everything that Adam does, he does well. The back room and kitchen have never been so clean. The sandwiches he makes sell like hotcakes.

A few days later, Hymie falls ill. He sees death, personified, a man in a black suit with a goatee, coming for him. But Adam confronts Death, who seems surprised to see him. Knows him, apparently. Adam is an angel. He strikes a bargain with Death. If Hymie can find a substitute, he can live. Death gives him 4 months.

Will Hymie find someone willing to take his place? Will he and Frieda repair their marriage? Out of the humdrum, ordinary lives of these ordinary people comes the extraordinary.

This story should have a fairly wide appeal, and will be enjoyed by just about anyone who can get past the obvious and seemingly deliberate stereotyping. Certainly anyone who appreciates Americana, period piece settings, immigrant assimilation, Jewish culture in America, family and spousal relationships, or the slightly supernatural. The book may be difficult to locate, as it is a small press imprint, and probably has not been widely distributed.

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