Skibell, Joseph. A Blessing on the Moon. Read by Allen Rickman. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2010.
Reason read: Halloween is a-coming and this is scary in a tickle your funny bone kind of way.
This is a startling Holocaust story. Right from the beginning the language grips you and grips you hard. Chaim Skibelski, a 60 year old Polish man, is shot along with hundreds of fellow Jews. He has been left to bleed out in a stinking heap. Murder doesn’t turn out to be very peaceful for Chaim. As a ghost-like entity caught between Life and The World to Come, he is condemned to roam with his former rabbi-turned-talking-crow, Rebbe. Together they are in an alternate afterlife trying to find purpose. That is the burning question. Why were they left behind? When Skibelski returns to his small Polish village he finds it overrun with non-Jews. They have moved into his house dragging their prejudices behind them.
Dear readers beware: while Skibell’s writing sometimes evokes magical imagery, the time frame is dark and tragic so definitely expect violence, destruction and decay. It is at once gory and gorgeous. The worms crawl in. The worms crawl out. Skibelski continuously bleeds from the bullet holes. His face is half missing. Corpses and his family and friends rot and stink and fall apart like a zombie movie. While listening to this on cd I was taken aback when Skibelski started to bleed from his anus. Fear not, dear readers. You get used to it. You will even learn to laugh at it.
In all honesty, I could see this as a Tim Burton film. There is sex and even humor amid the putrid. One of my favorite scenes was when Skibelski comes across a decapitated German soldier trying to kill him again. Yes, you read that right. Skibelski kicks the soldier’s head down a hill all the while arguing with the soldier about why he doesn’t need to die again. The dialogue is to die for (pun totally intended).
Author fact: Skibell has his own website here.
Book trivia: The audio version is read by Allen Rickman and he does a fabulous job. His comedic timing is perfect and I loved the voice of the crow.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter obviously called “Magical Realism” (p 148).