A Master Plan for Rescue, by Janis Cooke Newman, Riverhead Books, 320 pages, $27.95
Reviewed by ROBIN DOROSHOW
This latest novel from the author of Mary: Mrs. A. Lincoln and The Russian Word for Snow: A True Story of Adoption, is told primarily in two voices: the first is that of a 12-year-old Irish-Catholic boy living on Dyckman Street at the northernmost reaches of Manhattan; the second is that of a Jewish refugee from Berlin living on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The story is set in 1942, and the Second World War — on both sides of the Atlantic — is a focus of the novel’s intersecting stories.
Each of the storytellers is mired in his very own personal grief, and each copes by employing magical thinking — bargaining for a particular outcome that would greatly lessen their individual grief.
In the imagination of the 12-year-old boy, the Jewish refugee is a Nazi, and by confirming this fact, he believes that he can undo the tragedy that has befallen his family, thereby making everything right again. The Jewish refugee employs similar bargaining schemes while aboard the ill-fated MS St. Louis.
While a work of fiction, many of the details about the MS St. Louis and the ship’s journey from Hamburg to Havana and back again are historically accurate, as are the details of life in New York City during the war.
As the stories of the boy and the man become entangled, together they come up with a plan to save 23 Jewish children from certain death in Europe.
A Master Plan for Rescue is a work of great creativity, weaving history and fantasy with hope and heroism.
(American Jewish World 8.14.15)