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Trenton Makes by Tadzio Koelb [in Booklist]

WWII is over, and men return home, many to left-behind wives who became wholly self-supporting citizens out of necessity. For one such couple in Trenton, New Jersey, the postwar clash proves fatal, and the sole survivor completely reinvents herself.

“My name is Abe Kunstler. I was a soldier and a POW … and I was wounded in the war.” The name is especially telling. In German, Kunstler is both artist and performer, and Abe is a thorough creation. His haircut, fitted suit, and the necessary, body-altering bindings, attributed to war wounds – all affirm manhood. Deliberately, he acquires the symbols of masculine success – factory job, wife, home, even an heir. Nineteen years later, that son, compellingly named Art, becomes the greatest threat to Abe’s existence.

First-time novelist Tadzio Koelb, an André Gide translator and Rutgers writing instructor, spent two years learning Trenton’s historical vernacular via radio serials and period tabloids. With that scrupulously acquired voice, he deftly confronts gender, identity, and socioeconomic limits to create a piercing tragedy of a life caught between free will and utter desperation.

Review: “Fiction,” Booklist, February 15, 2018

Readers: Adult

Published: 2018 (United States)


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