Songs for the Butcher's Daughter by Peter Manseau
A Novel

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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.

About Peter Manseau

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Peter Manseau is the author of Vows and coauthor of Killing the Buddha. His writing has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, and on National Public Radio's All Things Considered. A founding editor of the award-winning webzine, he is now the editor of Search, The Magazine of Science, Religion, and Culture. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Washington, D.C., where he studies religion and teaches writing at Georgetown University.
Published September 16, 2008 by Free Press. 396 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, Religion & Spirituality. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Songs for the Butcher's Daughter

The Bookbag

I can't pretend to have loved every element of the book – as I say there were a couple of instances of literary and linguistic discussion I could have done without, but just as the brilliance of this book makes me deem it general fiction that breaks it away from the esoteric subjects that might h...

Oct 24 2009 | Read Full Review of Songs for the Butcher's Daugh...

ABC Perth

You can download the players free from the Real Audio website (please note that you only need the Free RealOne Player -- you don't have to purchase RealOne premium), or the Windows Media Player website.

Mar 11 2009 | Read Full Review of Songs for the Butcher's Daugh...


But just as one is sagging under the sense of having read variations on this story so often in the past, the translator will break in with the comment that “Malpesh seems to have written about himself as if he lived in a world of Yiddish fiction rather than Yiddish fact.” This is in an intentiona...

Feb 02 2009 | Read Full Review of Songs for the Butcher's Daugh...

The Chestertown Spy

Though their lives become intricately intertwined by love, conflict and pregnancy, Malpesh remains convinced it is bashert they are together;

Nov 01 2011 | Read Full Review of Songs for the Butcher's Daugh...

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