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The US Review of Books: Professional Book Reviews

Book Review by Joe Kilgore

Shanghai Torah


"Two souls—separated in purpose and culture—
united by the artistry of the written word."

This is a sweeping saga of lives torn asunder not only by the maelstrom that was World War II but also by the metaphysical borders that religion, culture, and emotion sometimes erect.

While it is a story of families simply trying to exist within the greatest conflagration that the world has ever known, it is also a testament to faith, tolerance, and understanding.

Moshe is part of a Jewish family fleeing Nazi oppression. On their way to relocation in Japan, his family gets rerouted to Shanghai and Moshe to Beijing. There, he is taken in by a Chinese family. The patriarch is a fabled poet and calligrapher who helps Moshe hone his own skills, reproducing a cherished Torah he has brought with him from his homeland.

During his time with the family, Moshe becomes enchanted with the beautiful Ming and caught up in her brother’s dalliance with Mao Zedong’s communist forces. As the Japanese army rampages through China, and warlord armies fight the invaders and each other, Moshe longs to be united with his family and Elana, the Jewish girl he’s always assumed he would one day marry.

Eventually, he reaches Shanghai, but how will he resolve his feelings for Ming and Elana, and will any or all of them survive the war?

Author London has a flair for descriptive prose and proves herself an engaging storyteller. She weaves multiple characters in and out of her plot easily without skimping on idiosyncratic touches that make them memorable.

Those who like intimate stories within immense backdrops will undoubtedly enjoy this debut novel.

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