Friday, December 01, 2006

A Review of THE MINYAN by Alvin Abram

A review by Paul and Gwendolyn Merkley.

The birth on November 11, 1921 of Aaron Ackerman and the murder of his mother Miriam in the same moment marks the beginning of a chain of consequences carrying several families of the small Jewish community in Lodz, Poland, through unspeakably painful adventures in pre-war and wartime Poland. People who do not know this history of this period will find much that Alvin Abraham describes as incredible; but those who know this history will recognize that nothing that happens here, even the most grotesque detail, is groundless invention. He has built his account scrupulously on the abundant literature of the holocaust years.

At the end of the first book, we are told of a covenant which is entered into by ten survivors of the worst of the death camps – a minyan imposing on themselves the duty of achieving revenge on ten specific individuals whose murderous activities in those camps they have seen and suffered themselves.

At the beginning of the second book, we find ourselves in the midst of a murder mystery set in the heart of what in our youth was the Jewish section of central Toronto. We are introduced to the case long after it has gone cold; but tantalizing details are leading police investigators and freelance citizen-investigators on parallel paths of inquiry. At first, everybody gets everything wrong. But the two parallel investigations converge as two young people who imagine that the lives of their parents and grandparents are bound up in this story meet in Poland to pursue the leads which they find in journal of the minyan. They soon find that they have stirred up dark forces – some left over from the years of the holocaust, and others representing by self-appointed custodians of Hitler’s legacy, embarked on a well-organized scheme for finishing Hitler’s unfinished work.

At one level, this is an exercise in the art of vivid-story telling, with special appeal to readers of historical fiction. At an a deeper level, it is a sophisticated essay in moral philosophy – an examination through examples of the dialectic of revenge and forgiveness, or remembering and forgetting, of keeping alive and putting to rest the traces of deeds so dark that the historians have always failed to expose their meaning.

- Paul C. Merkley.

Having read the historical novels of Bodie Thoene -- The Zion Covenant Series which deal with the plight of Jewish and Christian families in 1930s Europe, and the Zion Chronicles covering the period of the coming into being of the State of Israel -- I found your novels gave me insight into the horrendous period of the Holocaust in the years between.

I’m sure other readers of Christian Zionist fiction would find this as well, and as I did would enjoy the fast-pace and realistic story lines. You may find the Christian book market worth looking into as a venue for your book.

Thanks again for a mesmerizing read!

Gwen Merkley.


The Merkleys have lived in Israel and visit there frequently. They have a long-standing interest in Jewish history, Judaism, and Christian-Jewish relations. Paul is the author of Christian Attitudes Towards the State of Israel (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2001) and American Presidents, Religion, and Israel (Praeger, 2004.)

Author of:
The Light After the Dark (non-fiction)
The Light After the Dark II (non-fiction)
Whu, Zaida? (childrens book)
The Unlikely Victim (fiction novel)
Stories I Wrote (anthology)
An Eye For An Eye (fiction novel)
The Minyan (fiction novel)


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