Overall rating: ★★★★
Alma Singer is 15 years old. She lost her father when she was 7. Alma and her brother, Bird, live with their mother who is not completely over the death of her husband. One day Alma’s mother receives a request to translate the book The History of Love - her husband valued this book so much that he named their first daughter after the girl in the book. Alma is positive that the story in the History of Love was a real one and that the girl after whom she was named, Alma, really existed. And the search begins…
Leo Gursky, an octogenarian Jewish from Slonim (a small town that was “sometimes in Poland, sometimes in Russia”), lives alone in New York. He lost everything and everyone during the war. The love of his life, Alma, left Slonim before he did. When Leo arrived in New York, he went to look for her only to find out that it was too late.
The History of Love is a book inside a book plus the characters’ stories. Nicole Krauss did an excellent job putting together the different pieces that conform this novel. It is not confusing to read, it is very entertaining, moving, and funny. I imagine that she had to write at least two books to produce this one.
One of my favorite parts of the inner book History of Love was the chapter titled The Age of Silence. In it, Zvi Litvinoff – the character who wrote this book –, explains how during this time humans talked through their hands and how most people looked to fully understand what was said since some gestures could mean two different things. They asked questions until they were sure they got the intended message.
Another favorite, still within the inner book, was How Angels Sleep. The writer suggest that angels don’t dream and that they sleep poorly trying to understand the mystery of humans.
Each character in the novel has a powerful and distinct voice. At the end things may not have ended as each of these characters had expected; however, events unfold in the way they are supposed to happen according to the laws of the Universe… forgiveness, acceptance, and a small doses of insanity go a long way.