Shira Nayman's Awake in the Dark, a collection of three stories and a novella, is another work focusting tightly on a single theme: the Holocaust and the way in which the harrowing events of that time ripple through the lives of her characters, both past and present, to indelibly shape their identities. Nayman is adept at reversing the reader's expectations as her characters grapple with the weight of the burden history has placed upon them. In the first two stories, "The House on Kronenstrasse" and "The Porcelain Monkey," the protagonists make startling discoveries about their parents that transform the way each looks at the world. In "Dark Urgings of the Blood," the novella that makes up half the book, Nayman brings to bear her training as a clinical psychologist to tell the haunting story of a psychiatrist and her patient, unknowingly linked by tragic circumstances.
As befits their subject matter, these four stories are dark and often troubling. Nayman's talent lies in her ability to illumine the essential humanity at their core.
Harvey Freedenberg writes from Pennsylvania.