Fugitive Pieces

by Anne Michaels,
324 pages,
ISBN: 0771058837

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First Novels - Fashion, Sharks, and Anger
by Eva Tihanyi

But in Fugitive Pieces (McClelland & Stewart, 320 pages, $19.99 paper), Anne Michaels alchemizes anger into art. She tells the story of Jakob Beer who survived the Nazi massacre of his family in Poland when he was seven but, at the age of sixty, he is struck and killed by a car in Athens. Before his death, he had begun to write his memoirs, and these make up the first two-thirds of the book. The last sections are narrated by Ben, a young man who was introduced to Jacob by Maurice Salman, Jacob's oldest and dearest friend. Maurice has asked Ben to travel to the Greek island of Idhra to retrieve Jakob's journals. What he finds is much more than what he goes for.

Fugitive Pieces is about many things: the redemptive power of poetry, the complexity of a single life, the irrevocable fist-print of brutality on human consciousness. It's about love, both its failure and its success. It's about gut-wrenching events depicted without the slightest trace of sensationalism. But perhaps, most of all, it is about every person's own inevitable connection with humanity.

The book is beautifully written, Michaels the poet being everywhere evident, and it is unsettling in the best possible way-like turbulent water disturbing what lies in the depths.


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