1942. With the Nazi Party at the height of its power, the occupying army empties Poland’s towns and cities of their Jewish populations. As neighbor turns on neighbor and survival often demands unthinkable choices, Poland has become a moral quagmire—a place of shifting truths and blinding ambiguities.
Blending folklore and fact, Helen Maryles Shankman shows us the people of Wlodawa, a remote Polish town: we meet a cold-blooded SS officer dedicated to rescuing the creator of his son’s favorite picture book, even as he helps exterminate the artist’s friends and family; a Messiah who appears in a little boy’s bedroom to announce that he is quitting; a young Jewish girl who is hidden by the town’s most outspoken anti-Semite—and his talking dog. And walking among these tales are two unforgettable figures: the enigmatic and silver-tongued Willy Reinhart, Commandant of the forced labor camp who has grand schemes to protect “his” Jews, and Soroka, the Jewish saddlemaker and his family, struggling to survive.
Channeling the mythic magic of classic storytellers like Sholem Aleichem and Isaac Bashevis Singer and the psychological acuity of modern-day masters like Nicole Krauss and Nathan Englander, In the Land of Armadillos is a testament to the persistence of humanity in the most inhuman conditions.
Worth Getting in Bed For? Yes. The first story, In the Land of Armadillos, is worth the price of admission. Marlyes Shankman creates such colorful imagery and beauty with her writing that she somehow brings a humanity to the horrors she is depicting. The holocaust is never an easy subject to read or remember, but she manages to give grace and sometimes a needed irony to the victims of the Nazi occupation. This is so well-written with a bit of whimsy and magical realism that it is one of my favorite reads of 2016.
About the Author Helen Maryles Shankman’s stories have been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes. She was a finalist in Narrative Magazine’s story contest and earned an honorable mention in Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers competition. Helen is the author of the critically acclaimed novel The Color of Light.
A Historical Fiction Book Tour.