Sheldon Horowitz agreed to move to Norway to live with his granddaughter Rhea and her husband Lars. If he had known there were only 1,000 Jews in all of Norway he might have made a different choice, but after his wife died, leaving New York didn’t seem like such a big deal. He was 82 after all and even Mabel, his wife, had noticed that his mind was slipping. When she had tried to broach the subject of his senility he had just ignored her, but even he knew that something was going on. “Time was folding in a new way. Without a future, the mind turned back on itself. That’s not dementia,” he thought, “…it’s the only rational response to the inevitable.” So he moved to Norway where it is blue and cold, and the sun doesn’t set until 10:00 pm in the summer.
One day while Rhea and Lars are out of the house he hears the neighbors upstairs begin squabbling again. They were constantly yelling and screaming at each other in some Balkan language that Sheldon did not understand. This time though the rhythm was wrong. there was no back and forth. This time there was only the man’s voice just going on and on until suddenly there was a large bang and then footsteps coming down the stairs. He looks out the peephole in the door and sees the woman from upstairs. He knows that a large white car is blocking the entrance to the building, trapping her inside and silently he opens the door. The woman turns, and there clutched in one hand is a pink box and in her other she is clutching a small little boy in a green jacket and blue Wellington boots with Paddington Bear carefully painted on their sides. Sheldon silently ushers them into the apartment and directs the woman and child to go down the stairs into his rooms. The man is outside the door pounding on it. The door will break soon. The woman gently shoves her son towards Sheldon her eyes wide open with fear. She says something and then turns and goes up the stairs to face the man at the door. Sheldon grabs the boy. Hiding in the closet they hear the screaming and cruelty upstairs. Sheldon “…pulls the boy to his chest, presses his hands around the boy’s ears,” and says, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. This is the best I can do. I’m so sorry.”
Miller has created the most unlikely hero in Sheldon. a cantankerous ex marine sharpshooter whose mind passes with ease between past and present. But nonetheless Sheldon is so engaging and so very human, you can’t help but cheer on his efforts to save this small child and at the same time admire his tenacity and persistence in the face of the limitations of old age and even senility as he lets his past inform his present and future. Beautifully written, this is one of my favorite books so far this year!
Brenda’s Rating: *****(5 out of 5 Stars)
Recommend this book to: Keith, Ken, Marian, Lauren and Sharon
Book Study Worthy? Yes!
Read in ebook format.