Mark Sarvas is the winner of the Association of Jewish Libraries Jewish Fiction Award for his novel Memento Park. Two honor books were also recognized: The Cloister by James Carroll and The Fourth Corner of the World by Scott Nadelson. The selection committee reviewed over 70 works of fiction originally written in English with significant Jewish thematic content that were published in the United States in 2018.
Memento Park by Mark Sarvas
After receiving an unexpected call from the Australian consulate, Matt Santos becomes aware of a painting that he believes was looted from his family in Hungary during the Second World War. To recover the painting, he must repair his strained relationship with his harshly judgmental father, uncover his family history, and restore his connection to his own Judaism. Along the way to illuminating the mysteries of his past, Matt is torn between his doting girlfriend, Tracy, and his alluring attorney, Rachel, with whom he travels to Budapest to unearth the truth about the painting and, in turn, his family.
As his journey progresses, Matt’s revelations are accompanied by equally consuming and imaginative meditations on the painting and the painter at the center of his personal drama, Budapest Street Scene by Ervin Kálmán. By the time Memento Park reaches its conclusion, Matt’s narrative is as much about family history and father-son dynamics as it is about the nature of art itself, and the infinite ways we come to understand ourselves through it.
The Cloister by James Carroll
Father Michael Kavanagh is shocked when he sees a friend from his seminary days at the altar of his humble parish in upper Manhattan—a friend who was forced to leave under scandalous circumstances. Compelled to reconsider the past, Father Kavanagh wanders into the medieval haven of the Cloisters and stumbles into a conversation with a lovely and intriguing docent, Rachel Vedette.
Having survived the Holocaust and escaped to America, Rachel remains obsessed with her late father’s greatest scholarly achievement: a study demonstrating the relationship between the famously discredited monk Peter Abelard and Jewish scholars. Feeling an odd connection with Father Kavanagh, Rachel shares with him the work that cost her father his life.
The Fourth Corner of The World by Scott Nadelson
The characters in Scott Nadelson’s latest collection abandon their lands of origin, sever their roots, and distance themselves from the people they once were. These stories roam geographically and historically, featuring a would-be assassin in 1920s Paris, Jewish utopians in 1880s Oregon, and teenage girls seeking revenge in 1980s New Jersey among their casts of beautifully rendered outcasts and seekers.