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ormer Oak Parker Elliot
Feldman's novel Sitting Shiva
is a black comedy more than
The story, told mostly in flashback style,
anything else — humorous,
uses a slightly dysfunctional Oak Park
yet deeply tragic.
family to explore the universal subject of a
But readers in the Detroit area's
parent's death and a son's grieving process.
Jewish community also will find it to be
Colorful characters and strong lan-
friendly and heimish (homelike) because
guage give the novel touches of stark
of the many references to Jewish tradi-
realism: bickering in the family; Jewish
tions and expressions, familiar streets,
youngsters in and out of trouble and
stores, restaurants, schools and famous
coming of age; romantic relationships;
and non-Jews depicted as either
The recently published 247-page
friends or bullies.
There's somewhat of
Books; $12.95) is the
a surprise ending,
first novel for Feldman,
involving the contents
who calls himself an
of a safe deposit box
and a Dearborn nurs-
Detroit freak transplant-
ed to San Diego."
The readers meet
He's been living in
Grandma Rifka Fish,
California for almost 25
Aunt Beatrice, Uncle
years, but the book cov-
ers the time period he
Schwartz, Sol the
grew up in Detroit and
Oak Park in the 1950s,
Lowell Krantz, Howie
'60s and '70s.
"I'm just a Detroit
and Oak Park boy at
heart," he said in an
interview. "I don't think
you ever get Detroit
The story, told mostly in
Shapiro, Joe and
blood out of your sys-
flashback style, uses a slightly
tem, no matter where
dysfunctional Oak Park family Antoinette Abboud
to explore the universal subject
But Sitting Shiva is
a parent's death and a
"The main charac-
not a memoir. It is a fic-
sons grieving process.
ters are composites of
tional account of a son
Jewish people I met in
corning to grips with the
the Detroit area," Feldman said. "The
death of his father, a small-time Detroit
`Charlie' character and his friends con-
tain a lot of me and my old friends."
In 1976, Morris Fish is found dead in
The book is illustrated with drawings
a sleazy motel room. Did gamblers
by Feldman, who sold cartoons in the
holding his "markers" murder him, did
1960s to Detroit newspapers.
his psycho mistress and her family slay
He first realized he had writing talent
him after a series of inexplicable, threat-
ening phone calls, or did he kill himself? when he Wrote a skit for the senior class
at Oak Park High School that poked
Charlie Fish, his 30-year-old son,
fun at the teachers — most of them
grieves for Morris and the father-son
out in protest.
relationship they never had.
"That permanently ended senior skits
For the shivah period, the seven tradi-
at the high school," he said.
tional days of Jewish mourning,
He honed his writing skills while get-
Charlies chooses not to stay at his
ting a bachelor's degree in communica-
invalid mother's house on "Westridge
tions at Michigan State University.
Street" in Oak Park and grieve with his
Feldman's parents were the late Abe
family. Instead, he searches the area for
S it t ing
S tu va
Between 7 & 8 Mile on East Side
answers, reliving painful moments from
the past while reuniting with the shad-
owy figures who once terrorized him.