The Sonderberg Case by Elie Wiesel

Although this certainly isn't fair on my part, I'm sure I keep waiting for Elie Wiesel to produce another book I love as much as The Fifth Son. The Sonderberg Case (2010 in English), translated by Catherine Temerson, doesn't even come close to being a match for quality or intensity.

Synopsis from the publisher:

Despite personal success, Yedidyah—a theater critic in New York City, husband to a stage actress, father to two sons—finds himself increasingly drawn to the past. As he reflects on his life and the decisions he’s made, he longingly reminisces about the relationships he once had with the men in his family (his father, his uncle, his grandfather) and the questions that remain unanswered. It’s a feeling that is further complicated when Yedidyah is assigned to cover the murder trial of a German expatriate named Werner Sonderberg. Sonderberg returned alone from a walk in the Adirondacks with an elderly uncle, whose lifeless body was soon retrieved from the woods. His plea is enigmatic: “Guilty . . . and not guilty.”

These words strike a chord in Yedidyah, plunging him into feelings that bring him harrowingly close to madness. As Sonderberg’s trial moves along a path of dizzying yet revelatory twists and turns, Yedidyah begins to understand his own family’s hidden past and finally liberates himself from the shadow it has cast over his life.

I don't know if I agree so much with being "close to madness" as being pulled from his comfort zone by the trial and by the shock of learning more about his own past, which I can't get into in any detail without ruining the book for someone else who might want to read it. I think age also plays a role, sort of the angst of being middle-aged and wondering "is this what my life really is" as you think about how little time you likely have left.

The book definitely provided some things for me to think about, but it's not something I'll likely remember in any detail in a year or two.

My overall rating of The Sonderberg Case is a B-.


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