Monday, March 19, 2012

The Street Sweeper by Elliot Perlman

2 Star
From the civil rights struggle in the United States to the crematoria of Auschwitz-Birkenau, there are momentous stories everywhere. But only some survive to become history.

Lamont Williams is a black man from the Bronx trying to return to a normal life after serving a six-year prison term for a crime for which he was wrongly convicted. Historian Adam Zignelik is an untenured Columbia professor whose career and long-term relationship are falling apart. When Lamont Williams strikes up an unlikely friendship with a patient at the hospital where he works as a janitor, he learns about the Sonderkommando--prisoners forced to work in the gas chambers and crematoria of the Nazi extermination camps. Meanwhile, Adam pursues a promising research topic suggested by a World War II veteran, a topic that might just save him professionally and even personally. When the lives of these two men intersect, history comes to life in ways neither of them could have foreseen.

Sabrina-Kate - 2 Star

I have to say that I was ultimately disappointed in The Street Sweeper. I started out by loving it as it opened with an amazingly descriptive scene set in Harlem. Since I love New York and recently stayed in Harlem, it really appealed to me. But unfortunately, that quickly changed.

I stayed enraptured with the story of Lamont Williams as he seemed like a very realistic character, struggling through life and just trying to get by while looking for his long lost daughter. He seemed like a very relatable character but not much of the book seemed devoted to him or the characters related to him. 

The main focus was on Adam Zignelik, an untenured Columbia professor. While I could sympathize with his emotional side, though it was very downplayed, I did not appreciated how much detail the author provided on his psyche. At times his ex girlfriend would "whisper" at him - which was really just him talking in his head but was written in a confusing way.

The novel also went into tangents and far too much detail on historical aspects, which might be interesting to some, but ultimately lost me. The Street Sweeper was heavy in thoughts and memories rather than plot, especially regarding the details of the Holocaust. I felt it too personal a topic was being elaborated on at times, almost lecturing, especially with the repetitive nature of some of the themes, and combined with the narrative instead of action it seemed to lose me.

Unfortunately what could have been an intriguing tale of two New Yorkers ended up being a disappointment for me.

Thank you to DoubleDay Canada for our review copy!

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