Cover image for Harry Kaplan's adventures underground
Harry Kaplan's adventures underground
Stern, Steve, 1947-
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New York : Ticknor & Fields, 1991.
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Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Harry Kaplan, a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn, likes his books. The more fantastic or exotic the story, the better. Only dimly aware of his family, he is hardly disturbed when his father decides to chuck his New York failures for a better life in Memphis. Now dad, running a pawnshop during the Depression, in a neighborhood very much like the one he left behind, invites Harry to help him. The pawnshop--a storehouse of dreams and fantastic characters--turns out to be Harry's perfect haven. (Like father like son.) Stern's fiction--which has garnered him the O. Henry Prize, among other honors--is delightfully in the tradition of Sholom Aleichem. --Cynthia Ogorek

Publisher's Weekly Review

Set in waterlogged Memphis during the great flood of 1939, this yeasty, vibrant novel spins an unusual variation on the Huck Finn theme. For 15-year-old Harry Kaplan, recently transplanted from Brooklyn to Memphis's teeming Jewish ghetto, working in his father's pawnshop is a bore. So bookish, comically awkward Harry hooks up with two orphaned black twins, wise-guy Lucifer and his tagalong mute brother Michael. In scenes of almost hallucinatory power, renegade Harry and the twins navigate flooded Beale Street, exploring brothels, cabarets, a wrecked steamboat and the stereotypes each culture harbors toward the other. When he's not hanging out with his ``forbidden friends,'' Harry copes with his well-heeled, shady Uncle Morris, cantankerous Grandpa Isador, and with his attraction toward his mousy cousin Naomi. In Harry, Stern ( Lazar Malkin Enters Heaven ) has found a rambunctious narrator who infuses this delightful, wry tale with moments of hilarity and a slew of apt Yiddishisms. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Stern's ability to sustain his young protagonist's sense of wonder and innocence is the most remarkable aspect of this engaging coming-of-age novel. Poverty uproots 15-year-old Harry's family from the Brooklyn of the 1930s to the Jewish ghetto in Memphis. In Memphis, Harry teams with black twins Lucifer and Michael, and together they share the adventures of pawn shops, abandoned steamboats, rail cars, houses of ill repute, and a flood that places a large segment of Memphis underwater. Stern is a gifted storyteller who manages a portrayal of poverty, loss, and exile that is never self-conscious, sensational, or without the sense that his characters are struggling to survive as well as find meaning in their lives. His work is witty, charming, and, at times, heartbreaking: `` `He ain't white,' he was sorry to have to inform the gambler. `He Jewrish.' '' Highly recommended.-- Joseph Levandoski, Free Lib. of Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.