The Street Sweeper by Elliot Perlman

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An extraordinary tale powerfully told, The Street Sweeper reveals how individual people matter in history, how unexpected connections can change lives, and how the stories we hear affect how we see the world.
-Globe and Mail

Synopsis

How breathtakingly close we are to lives that at first seem so far away.

From the civil rights struggle in the United States to the Nazi crimes against humanity in Europe, there are more stories than people passing one another every day on the bustling streets of every crowded city. Only some stories survive to become history.

Recently released from prison, Lamont Williams, an African American probationary janitor in a Manhattan hospital and father of a little girl he can’t locate, strikes up an unlikely friendship with an elderly patient, a Holocaust survivor who was a prisoner in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

A few blocks uptown, historian Adam Zignelik, an untenured Columbia professor, finds both his career and his long-term romantic relationship falling apart. Emerging from the depths of his own personal history, Adam sees, in a promising research topic suggested by an American World War II veteran, the beginnings of something that might just save him professionally, and perhaps even personally.

As these men try to survive in early-twenty-first-century New York, history comes to life in ways neither of them could have foreseen. Two very different paths—Lamont’s and Adam’s—lead to one greater story as The Street Sweeper, in dealing with memory, love, guilt, heroism, the extremes of racism and unexpected kindness, spans the twentieth century to the present, and spans the globe from New York to Chicago to Auschwitz.

Epic in scope, this is a remarkable feat of storytelling.

 

About Elliot Perlman

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ELLIOT PERLMAN is the author of The Reasons I Won't Be Coming and Seven Types of Ambiguity. He also cowrote the award-winning screenplay for a film version of Three Dollars, his first novel. He lives in Australia.
 
Published January 5, 2012 by Riverhead Hardcover. 640 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for The Street Sweeper
All: 3 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by David Gates on Jan 27 2012

However earnest “The Street Sweeper” may be about its material — I’ve seldom read a more humorless book — as a novel it’s deadly frivolous.

Read Full Review of The Street Sweeper | See more reviews from NY Times

Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Jay Parini on Feb 24 2012

...Perlman offers an affecting meditation on memory itself, on storytelling as an act of healing.

Read Full Review of The Street Sweeper | See more reviews from Guardian

Globe and Mail

Excellent
Reviewed by Sarah Johnson on Mar 04 2012

An extraordinary tale powerfully told, The Street Sweeper reveals how individual people matter in history, how unexpected connections can change lives, and how the stories we hear affect how we see the world.

Read Full Review of The Street Sweeper | See more reviews from Globe and Mail

Reader Rating for The Street Sweeper
83%

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