Ayelet Waldman’s new book begins in Red Hook, Maine, the setting of her novel RED HOOK ROAD, but the two could hardly be more different. For whereas she had previously confined herself to two families in the same setting over a period of a very few years, she travels in this one to Salzburg, Budapest, and Israel, at various periods over a hundred-year span. By the same token, though, it is a stretch to call Love and Treasure a novel; it is essentially a trilogy of novellas, each with different characters, but linked by a single object and common themes. The object is an enameled Jugendstil pendant in the shape of a peacock. Although only of modest value, it plays an important role in the lives of the people who people who possess it, and provides a focus for the novelist’s enquiry into the lives of Hungarian Jews both before and after the Holocaust.
Without much ado, let me state that I think this book is brilliant. It took my breath away and grabbed me by my heart from the first page till its stunning coda. Without being maudlin or histrionic, Ayelet Waldman’s RED HOOK ROAD examines the impact of loss and grief on two families, each as different as day and night. In the first chapter of the book, the reader is spectator to a profound tragedy. A young couple, married for about one hour, die in a car accident on the way to their own wedding reception.