The Ministry of Special Cases – Nathan Englander

ministry.gifFor the Jews of Buenos Aires there is one cemetery, but a high wall gates off the members of the Benevolent Self (pimps and prostitutes) from the rest of the dead. Kaddish Posnan, the son of a whore, is the only descendant who thinks it is important to honor the dead members of the Benevolent Self. However, he spends his evenings chipping away the names of the graves for the sons and daughters who want to distance themselves from their notorious ancesters. Kaddish is an outsider and a nobody. His college-educated son is embarrassed by him and they fight like dogs right up until the moment his son is “disappeared.”

I enjoyed this book despite the somber topic. Englander presents the gravity of Argentina’s “Dirty War” without being too graphic. His focus is more on the emotional impact of the parents who are searching for their son in an absurdly bureaucratic country. Kaddish is a wonderful character. He is likable even though he can never do anything right. It feels odd to route for a loser, but somehow Kaddish won me over.

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