Minka Pradelski; Translated by Philip Boehm
Here Comes Mrs. Kugelman is Minka Pradelski's enchanting novel of listening and telling, of the silence between Holocaust survivors and their children, and of the power of stories to mend broken bonds
When feisty young Tsippy Silberberg of the curious eating habits receives word from Tel Aviv that a distant aunt has left her a mysterious inheritance—an incomplete fish service in a battered brown suitcase—she decides to break her rigid routine and go collect it in person. But before she is even able to settle into her hotel room, an odd old woman bangs on her door and invites herself in. Her name is Bella Kugelman, and she is determined to talk.
And talk she does, with wondrous effect. Soon the room is filled with people—residents of the Polish town of Bedzin before the war, who now live on, if only in Mrs. Kugelman’s stories. Flirtatious girls and sly shopkeepers, rich industrialists and a family so poor that their necks are bent over from looking for coins—in tale after tale, a town magically returns to life, even as its grim future looms darkly. And under the thrall of Mrs. Kugelman’s words, Tsippy finally pieces together her aunt’s strange bequest, as well as her own place in the story unfolding before her.
Critic Alan Cheuse reviews Here Comes Mrs. Kugelman by Minka Pradelski. He says it's a delightful novel that's a fascinating mix of comedy and pathos.
"Charming and persuasive . . . a fascinating mix of comedy and pathos."
—Alan Cheuse, NPR's All Things Considered
"One part spry farce, one part moving meditation, and a book that keeps the reader enthralled by that somewhat quaint yet still supremely effective narrative approach, tale-telling."
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
"From the moment Mrs. Kugelman walks into the room, plops herself down, and begins talking about her village in pre-war Poland, she completely captivates the reader. Her charming characters are so wholly felt and authentically rendered, it is impossible not to be transported back to another time, to the innocence of a thriving, happy community that is ultimately shattered by war. Most of all, it reminds us that one way to recover is to tell each other our stories—to remember, fully, who we were and are."
—Rebecca Barry, author of Later, at the Bar: A Novel in Stories
"What a delightful narrator! What a scintillating cast of characters! What laughter and heartbreak in this world that is lovingly, achingly, whimsically, magically drawn for us. Readers, you are in for a treat."
—Chitra Divakaruni, author of Oleander Girl and The Mistress of Spices
"Magical . . . Pradelski successfully walks a tightrope between farce and tragedy, comedy and deep feeling."
—Die Literarische Welt