PETE HAMILL’S, “SNOW IN AUGUST.”

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An absolutely enchanting, magical, sociological, psychological, and cultural novel about a 1947 Brooklyn neighborhood in which its citizens are mostly Irish Catholic, Italian, and Jewish. The agony of World War II and its suffering and lost are still a very big part of their everyday life. They live in tenements where most apartments still rely on coal to heat their apartments, turn on the hot water, and cook on their stoves.

The main character, Michael Devlin, an eleven year alter boy who attends Catholic school, lives with his mother who escaped from the civil war going on in her native Ireland to live in America. Her husband, a member of US forces fighting in Europe is killed in the Battle of the Bulge during the end of the war. 

On a cold, winter morning when a huge snow storm has shut down most of Brooklyn, Michael still gets up early to attend a scheduled eight o’clock mass where he is scheduled to be one of two altar boys. He struggles through the snow and the nasty wind blowing in off the harbor when he suddenly hears a plead for help. After a certain amount of hesitation, he decides to see if he can help, and he arrives at the steps of a synagogue where Rabbi Judah Hirsh, a refuge from Prague, ask Michael if he can a turn on the light switch because during the Shabbos he is not permitted.

From this first encounter, a growing and educational friendship develops with the Rabbi helping teach Michael Yiddish and Jewish culture, and Michael teaches him better English and about baseball and the excitement of the first black ballplayer, Jackie Robinson, joining the Dodgers.

It is against this fruitful and loving friendship, that the prejudices of the day against blacks, and Jews, want to be teenage gangsters, and corrupt police takes place. This takes place, like I said in 1947, and sadly throughout all I could think about is how little has changed since then.

This is an exceptionally moving story, with a magical ending, beautifully written with unbelievable characters. I highly recommend.

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