The Street Sweeper by Elliot Perlman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
"Memory is a willful dog. It won't be summoned or dismissed but it cannot survive without you. It can sustain you or feed on you. It visits when it is hungry, not when you are. It has a schedule of its own that you can never know. It can capture you, corner you or it can liberate you. It can leave you howling and it can make you smile. Sometimes it's funny what you remember."
What the two main characters learn from the memory of others was absolutely mesmerizing! Even though I knew that two unlikely characters - a parolee cleaning up around a hospital and a nearly out of work professor - would find they had quite a story in common, I wasn't sure how it would all work out.
This work of fiction relied heavily on some serious history - the holocaust and African American soldiers who fought in World War II. Did there need to be so many characters who weren't part of the main story line? Probably not. I'm so bad with names that I couldn't tell you which characters I wasn't interested in reading about.
But the stories of these main characters was fascinating. I couldn't help but wonder what that parolee must have thought when an elderly white man with an accent insisted he hear his story? And how exciting it must have been for that college professor to stumble into history that was on the verge of being forgotten?
I also learned something about myself. My little brain can't handle this heavy of a topic before bed. After reading the detailed account of the horrific gassing of the Jews, I had a terrible dream that I was in an enclosed room and people were climbing on top of each other, kicking me in the head. After that, I did not read this book before bed.
By the last 100 pages, I didn't care what else I needed to get done. I sat and read this like it was just as important to me as the stories were to Lamont and Adam (see that - I remembered names!). And I'm glad I did.
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