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Rosenbaum has a fluent style that can pivot and change direction on a single word, and the novel is rich in detail and vignette. Its appealing central character is Oliver Levin, a writer of popular novels whose parents survived the camps only to kill themselves years later in a Miami temple, leaving no note and giving no warning. Oliver's emotions are long frozen, his wife missing for years, his talent recently blocked.

Where 9/11 ghosts meet the grandchildren of Shoah survivors

His teenage daughter, Ariel, decides to save him from ruin by returning his parents to life, using a handful of Hudson River mud, her precocious skill at the cabala and a drop of blood. Odd things begin happening in New York. Ariel can suddenly play gorgeous klezmer violin and stakes out a place on the sidewalk outside Zabar's. A baby carriage rolls unaccompanied through the streets.

Tattoos disappear and showers cease working -- there can be no more of either in New York after Auschwitz.

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It is suddenly impossible to get on the subway unless there is a seat free; standing is reminiscent of the freight cars that brought prisoners to the camps. All smoke and smoking is banned because of the notion which is actually mistaken that there were smoking crematory chimneys. And Oliver's writer's block begins to crumble as his feelings thaw. He begins to write, faster and faster, about his parents, about the Holocaust and its legacy -- a book called ''Salt and Stone.

But beneath the sometimes playful, magic realist surface of the novel, trouble lurks.


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Despite all the consequences it unleashes upon those who fail to study the Holocaust well enough, ''The Golems of Gotham'' does not always live up to its own high standards. Jerzy Kosinski is included in the assemblage of ghostly writers, who ''wrote some of the most important books and poetry about the Holocaust,'' and whose later suicides Rosenbaum attributes to it.

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Yet since , scholars have believed that Kosinski lied about his comfortable wartime years in Poland, and might even have been the son of Nazi collaborators. He initially presented ''The Painted Bird'' as a Holocaust memoir, when it was really a work of fiction -- allegedly written by a living ghostwriter.

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