The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

Once you figure out the rhythm of Krauss’s story line, you will appreciate and sometimes laugh at both the wisdom of Leopold Gursky as he tries to survive old age, and the musings of Alma as she tries to decipher the rules of growing up without a father. If you are tempted to stop reading around page fifty, plunge on – it gets good.

The story swings back and forth from Leopold’s thoughts of  Alma, the mother of his son, to Alma, a young girl named for a character in his novel.

Leopold is ready to die alone, with a note in his wallet,  just in case – “…please call Pinelawn Cemetery. I have a plot there in the Jewish part…”  Having escaped the Nazis in Poland, Leopold makes his way to America – too late for the life he wanted.   His dream of becoming a writer is replaced by a life as a locksmith.  Getting inside the heads of her characters, Krauss shows how individuals lost more than family and belongings in that war; often they lost their identities and their possibilities.

Thinking his book, “The History of Love” is lost forever,  Gursky’s mind replays excerpts from the manuscript and from his life.   His personal tribute to Alma, the woman he loved, was meant for her eyes only, but, like all writers, he wonders if his ideas could be understood and would have been well received if it had been published.

Krauss’s story becomes a mystery, as the book, “The History of Love,” reappears, published to international acclaim, but written in Spanish by an author from Chile.  When young Alma’s mother is hired to translate the book, Alma becomes the sleuth who solves the puzzle of how, where, and who.

Eventually, Leopold’s and Alma’s stories converge, the characters meet, and all is resolved, but not in the way you would expect.

Through complicated twists and poignant insights, Krauss offers the reader a simple love story combined with an identity-theft mystery – and lessons learned from war-torn lives.

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