AMONG THE LIVING

Jonathan Rabb

A moving novel about a Holocaust survivor’s unconventional journey back to a new normal in 1940s Savannah, Georgia 

In late summer 1947, thirty-one-year-old Yitzhak Goldah, a camp survivor, arrives in Savannah to live with his only remaining relatives, the Jeslers. There, Yitzhak discovers a fractured world, where Reform and Conservative Jews live separate lives— distinctions, to him, that are meaningless given what he has been through. He further complicates things when, much to the Jeslers’ dismay, he falls in love with Eva, a young widow within the Reform community. When a woman from Yitzhak’s past suddenly appears—one who is even more shattered by the war than he is—Yitzhak must choose between a dark and tortured familiarity and the promise of a bright new life.

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A moving novel about a Holocaust survivor’s unconventional journey back to a new normal in 1940s Savannah, Georgia 

In late summer 1947, thirty-one-year-old Yitzhak Goldah, a camp survivor, arrives in Savannah to live with his only remaining relatives, the Jeslers. There, Yitzhak discovers a fractured world, where Reform and Conservative Jews live separate lives— distinctions, to him, that are meaningless given what he has been through. He further complicates things when, much to the Jeslers’ dismay, he falls in love with Eva, a young widow within the Reform community. When a woman from Yitzhak’s past suddenly appears—one who is even more shattered by the war than he is—Yitzhak must choose between a dark and tortured familiarity and the promise of a bright new life.

Set against the backdrop of America’s postwar south, Among the Living grapples with questions of identity and belonging, and steps beyond the Jewish experience as it situates Yitzhak’s story within the last gasp of the Jim Crow era. That he begins to find echoes of his recent past in the lives of the black family who work for the Jeslers—an affinity he does not share with the Jeslers themselves—both surprises and convinces Yitzhak that his choices are not as clear-cut as he might think.

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  • Other Press
  • October 2016
  • 288 Pages
  • 9781590518038

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$25.95

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About Jonathan Rabb

Jonathan Rabb is an American novelist, essayist, actor, and writer. He is the author of five novels: The Overseer; The Book of Q, and The Berlin Trilogy, a critically acclaimed series of historical thrillers set in Berlin and Barcelona between the world wars. Rosa won the 2006 Director’s Special Prize at Spain’s Semana Negra festival, and was named one of January Magazine’s Best Books of 2005. Rabb has taught at Columbia University, New York University, the 92nd Street Y, and is currently an instructor in the writing department at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

Praise

“From its first pages, Among the Living carries you into a particular time and setting, into the lives of people with whom you are entirely unfamiliar, and holds you there with a story that will stay with you for years to come. What a powerful, moving book.” —David McCullough, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning author

Discussion Questions

1. When Goldah arrives in Savannah he recognizes “This was the second code, the second assurance that [he] belonged” (7). What are the “codes” that signal to Goldah the mores of the town or the Jewish community the Jeslers are a part of?

2. Compare Goldah’s first encounter with Mary Royal (14–19) to their interaction starting on page 44. How are the two scenes different? What causes the difference?

3. Goldah remembers his father telling him, “You wouldn’t want me digging a ditch” (135). How do Goldah’s father’s feelings and ideas about class reflect on Jesler’s and Pearl’s own preoccupations with it? Are there other ways in which Goldah’s life in Europe reverberate in
his new life in Savannah?

4. Goldah remembers that when his father was murdered, the SS guards explained that it “was for Goldah to stand and watch. It was nothing his father had said or done. It was simply to show it could be done” (137). Do you think there is a similarity between how Goldah’s father is murdered and the violence Raymond is subjected to?

5. What does Calvin mean when he says, “They tried to kill you, all a you, all at once. I seen that. But here they kill us one at a time and that’s a difference” (116)? Explain the “difference” that he refers to.

6. How does the Jewish community Pearl introduces Goldah to treat him and his experience of the Holocaust? What is the difference between the Jeslers and the De la Parras? What do Goldah and Malke make of this difference?

7. How does Malke’s appearance affect Goldah’s life in Savannah? Why do you think Goldah is unable to identify with Malke when he so easily feels a camaraderie with Calvin and Raymond?

8. What is the difference between how Malke and Goldah react to their experiences of the Holocaust? Why do you think Goldah is able to make a home in Savannah while Malke has to leave?

9. Describe Malke. Do you think she functions as an antagonist or a villain in this novel?

10. At the end of the novel Goldah says he has two selves, “One to survive, the other to live” (297). What in Savannah has taught him how to live?