Songs for the Butcher's Daughter

Author(s): Peter Manseau

Fiction - Contemporary

Summer, sweltering, 1996. A book warehouse in western Massachusetts. A man at the beginning of his adult life -- and the end of his career rope -- becomes involved with a woman, a language, and a great lie that will define his future. Most auspiciously of all, he runs across Itsik Malpesh, a ninetysomething Russian immigrant who claims to be the last Yiddish poet in America. When a set of accounting ledgers in which Malpesh has written his memoirs surfaces -- twenty-two volumes brimming with adventure, drama, deception, passion, and wit -- the young man is compelled to translate them, telling Malpesh's story as his own life unfolds, and bringing together two paths that coincide in shocking and unexpected ways.

Moving from revolutionary Russia to New York's Depression-era Lower East Side to millennium's-end Baltimore with drama, adventure, and boisterous, feisty charm to spare, the unpeeling of this friendship is a story of the entire twentieth century. For fans of Nicole Krauss, Nathan Englander, Richard Powers, Amy Bloom, and Lore Segal, this book will amaze at every turn: narrated by two poets (one who doesn't know he is and one who doesn't know he isn't), it is a wise and warm look at the constant surprises and ineluctable ravages of time. It's a book about religion, love, and typesetting -- how one passion can be used to goad and thwart the other -- and most of all, about how faith in the power of words can survive even the death of a language.

A novel of faith lost and hope found in translation, "Songs for the Butcher's Daughter" is at once an immigrant's epic saga, a love story for the ages, a Yiddish-inflected laughing-through-tears tour of world history for Jews and Gentiles alike, and a testament to Manseau's ambitious genius.


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One of the most original and gripping novels I've read in a long time. From the very first page, I knew I was in the hands of a mesmerizing storyteller and born writer. Blessed with a biting wit, a huge heart, and a dazzling flair for language -- how we use it and how it defines us -- Manseau is the real thing. This is a gorgeous debut novel." -- Ellen Feldman, author of "The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank

Peter Manseau is the author the memoir Vows; the novel Songs for the Butcher’s Daughter; and most recently Rag and Bone: A Journey Among the World's Holy Dead. He has won the National Jewish Book Award, the Sophie Brody Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Jewish Literature, the Ribalow Prize for Fiction, and was shortlisted for the Mercantile Library First Novel Award. His books have published in eight languages and on four continents. A founding editor of and coauthor of Killing the Buddha: A Heretic’s Bible, he is both a doctoral candidate in religion and lecturer in journalism at Georgetown University. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife and two daughters.

General Fields

  • : 9781416538714
  • : Simon & Schuster
  • : Simon Spotlight Entertainment
  • : September 2009
  • : 214mm X 142mm X 25mm
  • : United States
  • : September 2010
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : 813.6
  • : 372
  • : Modern fiction
  • : Peter Manseau
  • : Paperback
  • : 1009