Snow In August
by Pete Hamill
(Little, Brown, 1997)
Reviewed by Sue Feder
In late 1946 Brooklyn, a young Irish altar boy fights a major
blizzard to get to church. En route, he reluctantly agrees to enter the
local synagogue and switch on the lights for the rabbi, whose regular
Shabbos goy couldn't make it. From this inauspicious beginning, and urged on
by some friends who are convinced that the synagogue hides a fabulous
treasure, young Michael Devlin pursues a relationship that will change
Sweet, low-keyed, and sometimes a little obvious, Snow in August is
not so much about friendship, respect and love -- although these certainly
are major factors -- as about prejudice as a form of ignorance, and
knowledge as the chief weapon to combat it.
Both Rabbi Hirsch and Michael have a need -- a hunger -- to Know.
Michael's father was killed in Europe, fighting the Nazis in Belgium. He is
in danger from a local gang of toughs when he witnesses them beating a
Jewish store owner into a coma. Rabbi Hirsch lost his young wife to those
same Nazis and took a circuitous route from Prague into the heart of
Brooklyn. Michael is a dreamer who believes in the good, and in heroes.
Rabbi Hirsch is a sad, disillusioned shell of a man who believes in sin and
evil. Each learns from the other a new history, a new culture, a new
language, their lives and experiences meeting at a crossroad called Ebbets
Field, where a young Negro second baseman named Jackie Robinson fights his
own never-ending battle for truth, justice and the American way.
The grit of the thinly disguised Windsor Terrace neighborhood -- the
close-knit, working-class Irish area tucked into the southwest corner of
Prospect Park, once home to the author -- collides head-on with ancient
eastern European legend in a happily-ever-after ending that some will object
to as false, and others will love as both fitting and the natural result of
all that had led to it. You can probably guess which side of the line I fall
Although its agenda is more obvious and its effect is not as
heart-tugging, Snow in August makes a perfect companion to Steve Kluger's
Last Days of Summer -- and I can hardly come up with a better recommendation!