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Love Invents us

by Amy Bloom
Random House, $21

At last, a truly Jewish writer who has found her way out of the ghetto. Amy Bloom’s coming-of-age novel echoes the cadences and concerns of an older Jewish immigrant population but speaks in a voice that is overtly modern. Like Carson McCullers’ Member of the Wedding, it explodes with a young woman’s discovery of her own multiple new selves.

The story—parts of which have appeared in the New Yorker and in Nice Jewish Girls (reviewed above)— follows a young girl through her discovery of love. The book traces her maturation through her relationships with a diverse cast of characters: a Jewish furrier, an English teacher who seduces her at age 16, an elderly black Southern women from whom she steals teaspoons, and a black boy with whom she shares a highly sexual relationship until his parents find out and send him away.

The love Bloom describes, without a hint of sentimentality, is a complicated and often dysfunctional experience, holding at once the promise of salvation and destruction. Her characters throw themselves into it with a ferocity that ensures both.