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August 23, 2002 - Image 90

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-08-23

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Entertainment

Er
OrenZA

v

On The Bookshelf

of Chili

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Crossing Over

0 VE'

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Merrill Joan Gerber writes the final chapter
of her 'Anna" series.

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Special to the Jewish News

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materialize: her mother's bigamist
first husband; her jealous 86-year-
old sister Gert attempting suicide in
a red peignoir; her half-brother Sam,
who, she learns, had molested her
and her sister ("I thought it was his -
thumb," claims an unperturbed
Gert).
Loosed in death from the shackles
of physical suffering, she is free to

I is the ultimate fantasy: You
have a seat at your own funer-
al.
Now imagine that while
hovering in limbo between your
death and burial, you have the
power not only to witness the prepa-
rations and critique the
eulogies, but also to eaves-
drop on critical moments in
Joan Gerber
your past for a reality check.
Such is the premise of
Merrill Joan Gerber's latest
novel, Anna in the Afterlife
(Syracuse University Press;
$22.95), which chronicles
Anna's four-day journey
between her grueling death
at 90 and her burial.
When last we left Anna in
Gerber's Anna in Chains, she
was lying helpless in a nurs-
ing home, paralyzed in one
arm, feeding tube gurgling
and begging for death. Not
exactly the stuff of comedy.
Yet in Anna in the Afterlife,
after seven agonizing years
A No: tti
chained to her bed, Anna
In death, free to revisit the past.
finally nears that "famous
tunnel she'd heard about on
Oprah," and what would
unlock her family's many secrets and
have turned maudlin from a lesser
long forgotten mysteries: Did her
writer is at once poignant, riveting,
brother really drown while fishing
even amusing in Gerber's capable
on erev Yom Kippur? ("Who needed
hands.
"Anna warned [her daughters] con- fish that fresh?") Did Anna really
win her husband by parading in
stantly: They mustn't do anything
front of her sister's date in a negli-
illegal and end up in jail," she
gee?
writes.
For the first time Anna confronts
"Neither one was familiar with
her own racial prejudice, her sexual
Firearms, neither one had access . to
reluctance, her stinginess.
heavy barbiturates and no one could
"'Nothing but the best' was not a
figure out how to get her to a bridge
phrase
Anna had thought her chil-
railing. Ropes, razors and drinking
drain cleaner did not appeal to Anna dren should live by. Now she was
feeling the consequences of her phi-
nor did a plastic bag over her head."
losophy — she'd have third-rate
At last "the great and famous
corned beef at her funeral reception,
moment" arrives, and Anna relin-
seedless Christian rye bread and
quishes "the spark every tiny ant and
prune Danish made with lard, with
worm wants to keep hold of, the
force that makes flies evade the swat- not a single salty black olive or a
plate of pickled herring in sour
ter and convulses fish off their bait-
cream on the table."
ed hooks."
Now this feisty woman, whose rai-
In death she is free to revisit her
past, and memorable characters
CROSSING OVER on page 92

ANNA IN THE
AFTERLIFE

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