A Gift of Rags

by Abraham Boyarsky,
216 pages,
ISBN: 1895555574

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Brief Reviews - Fiction
by Lori Hahnel

SET IN THE SUMMER of 1959 at a Laurentian hotel where a group of Holocaust survivors are vacationing, Abraham Boyarsky's A Gift of Rags (Lester, 214 pages, $16.95 paper) tells the story of one survivor, Zushe. Since the end of the war, he has been stalking another member of this group who he believes betrayed his wife and children to the Nazis, and the two finally confront each other at the hotel.

This quietly moving novel, the Montreal writer's fourth book, deals with the issues facing the survivors: guilt, forgiveness, whether or not they can reconcile their faith with their experiences, their search for meaning in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Boyarsky shows how different people have different ways of dealing with such tragedy and horror, and how these differences come between them. Some have lost their faith in God, but have managed to carry on with their lives, while some, like Zushe, have shut everything out but faith:

... some guests were annoyed by the strange rabbi, by the fringes of his undergarment he seemed to flaunt at them, by his unflinching faith in God, which they interpreted as a callous evasion of their recent tragic history.

A Gift of Rags shows us that 14 years after the end of the war, survival is still a daily issue for these people. And despite their differences, it really is the only issue; as it is, after all, for all of us.


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