On our journey to page 134, we meet Zvi Litvinoff, the Polish writer of The History of Love within The History of Love. We learn about his marriage to Rosa; how he immigrated to Chile; how he wrote the book in Yiddish and Rosa helped translate it into Spanish; how the original manuscript was lost in a flood; how only 2,000 copies were printed and “at least one copy was destined to change a life—more than one life…” This copy ends up in a used bookstore in Buenos Aires, and who buys it? David Singer! (And so our characters begin to “meet.”)
We return to Leo, who finally feels happy to be alive, to be in cafes and around others: “A wave of happiness came over me….” This lasts only moments, though: He discovers that his famous writer son has died. Leo is determined to be part of the funeral, and there he meets Bernard, Isaac’s half brother, and together they share memories. Bernard doesn’t know Leo’s connection but is fascinated by Leo’s tales of Alma, his mother. But Leo is pained to hear “people talk about the son I’d only been able to imagine…it was almost too much to bear.”
Meanwhile, Alma Singer continues her quest to learn more about her father. Along the way, she meets up with her pen pal, Misha, a 15-year-old Russian boy now living in Brooklyn, and their bond is sweet and strong. Krauss uses humor in this relationship, which I found touching. (Did you enjoy these teens also?)
At last Jacob Marcus writes back to Charlotte, pleased with her work so far but not sure if they are a good match the way Alma wants them to be. He’s a lonely, quiet man but seems touched by “her” interest in him. Alma reads his letter 100 times! She decides she must decipher every word in it to figure out why this book is of such importance to him. And why was it so important to her father? The inscription in her dad’s copy reads: “For Charlotte, my Alma. This is the book I would have written for you if I could write. Love, David.”
And then another jump, as Krauss takes us back to Litvinoff, this time before the war: He writes obits for the newspaper, he reconnects with a childhood friend, another writer. This friend falls gravely ill and while caring for him, Litvinoff finds an obit his friend has written about himself: “The death of Leopold Gursky…he read it over and over, mouthing the words as if they were not an announcement of death, but a prayer for life…” Zvi takes the obituary, believing he “could buy a little more time—for his friend, for his life.” And one more surprise: We find out that as a boy Bruno also loved Alma Mereminski and had written about her.
The themes of death, loss, loneliness, missed opportunities, unspoken truths, and love continue in the book; they seem to get even more powerful, intense, and passionate with each new detail we learn about each of our characters. There’s this thread about fate and destiny that kept speaking to me as well, about how often what we do or choices we make can create complicated challenges and road maps for our lives ahead.
Krauss’s beautiful writing keeps me intrigued and though we seem to be getting closer to understanding our characters and their lives and perhaps how they’re connected, I’m still unclear about what is really going on—but I’m determined to figure this maze out. So here is what I’m wondering:
• Do we know now who Bruno really is?
• Will these facts further unravel and will the writer be clearly revealed to all so we know who the “book Alma” was based on?
• Will our real girl Alma figure all that out too in the next chapters? Will she understand her father better? Will that help her to understand herself and her family further?
• Will Jacob’s interest in this puzzle be clarified? And will Charlotte start to feel more content?
Let’s see if some more answers are uncovered in the next chapters…