At the end of a long and—according to her—extraordinary life, Elisabeth Rother has decided to write her memoirs. Dwelling lovingly on her narrow escape from the Nazis with her Jewish husband and their perilous voyage to the New World of Weehawken, New Jersey. The subject that really consumes her—because what is a memoir if not a chance to even old scores?—is the waywardness of her impossible daughter, Renate, and granddaughter, Irene.
Renate persists in falling in love with geniuses who have bad table manners. She snubs a suitable career as a concert pianist to become New York's medical examiner, performing autopsies on the bodies of politicians whom death has harvested in the nighttime arms of their mistresses. Worse, she sleeps on unironed sheets. Irene brings pickled babies to school for show-and-tell, drops out (or is kicked out) in order to roam the world, refuses to address the problem of her nose with plastic surgery, and shows signs of enjoying sex. What is to be done with such women?
Written in the voice of the author's very real grandmother, this novel, is, in the end, a surprising love letter to the complicated but sustaining bond between mothers and daughters. The Empress of Weehawken is a masterpiece of comedy with an unexpected lilt of redemption at its close.
"Frau Professor Doktor Rother is stubborn, hypochondriacal, devoid of the slightest sentimentality. . . . She is also, by the way, frighteningly funny. . . . I couldn't get enough of her life story--Irene Dische made me laugh at the shock of it all."--Glen David Gold, author of Carter Beats the Devil
"An adrenaline-shot of a novel . . . The Empress of Weehawken is sharp as razors on the gradual entrapment of Jews in Germany. It's a classic immigration tale about a family's 'precarious union with America.'"--Michael Upchurch, The Seattle Times
"This book does a number of things beautifully, even brilliantly. . . . The real grandeur of The Empress of Weehawken, however, lies in the narrator's voice. . . . Frau Rother is drawn as accurately as the slice of a surgeon's scalpel."--Amy Wilentz, Los Angeles Times
"The voice of the reprobate-empress here is pitch-perfect. Dische has captured this fictionalized grandmother . . . with pepper and grace."--Gail Caldwell, The Boston Globe