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The Frozen Rabbi    by Steve Stern order for
Frozen Rabbi
by Steve Stern
Order:  USA  Can
Algonquin, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

When Bernie Karp is rummaging around in the family's basement freezer looking for some liver, he makes a fantastic discovery. Nestled in among the frozen filets and packages of French fries and peas, the youngster discovers the body of an old man solidly frozen in a block of ice.

'It's a family tradition,' his father says, explaining the boy's macabre discovery. 'Some people got taxidermied pets in the attic; we got a frozen rabbi in the basement.'

Then Bernie's mom chips in with, 'He's from your father's side of the family; they were always superstitious.'

'He's a keepsake that they handed down from generation to generation,' Mr. Karp replies. 'He came with a book ... The book explains where the rabbi came from.'

Thus begins one very strange but entertaining novel about the contents of a family history that explains how a frozen rabbi got from a small Polish town to a freezer in Memphis. More importantly, this is also the tale of what happens when the fifteen year old boy thaws his ancestor.

Once he is defrosted, the rabbi decides to turn in his rabbinical garb to become a modern-day evangelist. This unlikely turn of events for the ice shroud man who survived (actually his block of ice survived) pogroms in Europe, a trans-Atlantic voyage, an ice-house blaze in New York City, and a memorable train ride to Tennessee, is certainly a bit unorthodox. But that tale is matched by Bernie's own story which traces his rediscovery of the traditions of his heritage and his transformation into a young man with some extraordinary powers.

Steve Stern's previous work has been described a 'rollicking compendium of myth and historical tidbits' and he's been praised for his 'bright humor, colorful characters, and potent blend of realism and Jewish mysticism'. This latest novel more than lives up to the early accolades this talented writer has already received.

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