Author: Jay Greenfield
Publisher: Chickadee Prince
Review of Arc Copy
“Paul's mother told him not to look at the numbers on Cousin Max's arm. Make believe they're not there,” she said the night Max moved in with them. But when Paul awoke the next morning, the last day of 1947, he saw nothing else-53927 glowing on a pale arm across the room. He rolled over toward the wall and pulled the blanket over his head.”
So begins Max's Diamonds, Jay Greenfield's debut novel around the fictitious Paul Hartman as he comes of age beginning in Rockaway Beach and eventually moving elsewhere to become a successful attorney.
Little did Paul realize that his meeting with Max would initiate a sequence of events that would have far reaching ramifications affecting his career as an attorney and his personal relationships with family and spouses. What is more, the ghosts of the Holocaust would haunt him when shortly thereafter Max tragically commits suicide in the ocean near his home.
seemed to have carefully planned out his demise and before jumping
into the ocean had left a violin case in the bedroom he shared with
Paul containing a white envelope for him. Upon opening the envelope,
Paul finds inside a key and a piece of paper that eventually he
discovers contains numbers separated by dashes- the combination for a
Paul is aware of his knavish cousin Bernie standing close by and he quickly rolls up the envelope hiding it from him. He then overhears Bernie telling his mother that there was something funny about Max who wanted him to help him sell mysterious diamonds. How and where he acquired them is the big question? His mother replies that Max told her many things including the concentration camps, his son, who was murdered, his brother, and about hiding the diamonds and other stones in boxes in different places as well as keys for the boxes that she couldn't repeat.
Paul decides that he wants nothing to do with the key and throws it into the ocean along with Max's note. However, he is unaware of the importance of this key, how his future life would be affected as well as the emotional wrestling match he will have to endure and the choices he will have to make. He will live a life dominated by the Holocaust and some of its victims, although he never experienced a moment of it. His Harvard Law education will be funded from the fruits of these diamonds and he will also find himself violating the oath he has taken before being admitted to the practice of law. And in addition, he will face a moral dilemma when called upon to deal with a case that has Holocaust implications.
Although Greenfield presents an interesting study of the horrendous pressures inflicted on someone due to circumstances, my problem with the narrative is that I felt it would have been far better without the inclusion of several of its secondary story-lines at the expense of its principal theme. Moreover, by running off in all directions with too many underdeveloped characters, Greenfield causes the novel to lose focus as well as emotional intensity. Nonetheless, for his first novel, Greenfield shows a great deal of promise and I am looking forward to hearing from him in the future.
Note: I received a complimentary Arc Copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.