BEFORE ALL THE WORLD
A mesmerizing, inventive story of three souls in 1930s Philadelphia seizing new life while haunted by the old.
I do not believe that all the world is darkness.
In the swirl of Philadelphia at the end of Prohibition, Leyb meets Charles. They are at a former speakeasy called Cricket’s, a bar that welcomes, as Charles says in his secondhand Yiddish, feygeles. Leyb is startled; fourteen years in amerike has taught him that his native tongue is not known beyond his people. And yet here is suave Charles–fingers stained with ink, an easy manner with the barkeep–a Black man from the Seventh Ward,
- October 2023
- 344 Pages
“In startling language filled with the flavor of Yiddish’s combination words, [Before All the World] moves forward and back and forward again in a dreamlike trance that acknowledges how the worst suffering exists side by side with the tender beauty of memory, friendship, words and the silences of recognition.” —Ilana Masad, NPR
“Rich and engrossing . . . A powerful story, brilliantly told.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“A one-of-a-kind creation.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Resembles something by Joyce or Samuel Beckett . . . A highly original and powerful tale told in defiance of the world’s darkness.” —Stephanie Cross, The Daily Mail
“Before All the World leaves you breathless . . . [Rothman-Zecher] has found a way to teach us how to find out what is most important about ourselves by losing himself in this novel of ingenious daring imagination and allowing us to accompany him on his ride. It is a masterful accomplishment that remains with the reader long after finishing this brilliant work.” —Elaine Margolin, Women in Judaism