This story is about a religious Jewish man who is murdered during the Holocaust and spends the rest of the story in limbo, searching for his family and the promise of the afterlife. Chaim Skibelski is a wealthy and respected man in his town in Poland. Very early on in the story, Chaim is murdered by Nazis along with the rest of family and neighbors. Large pits are dug and one by one the men of the village are shot and they fall into the ditch. Chaim awakes to find himself the only survivor in the mass of dead bodies. He runs away from the Nazis and flees into the woods. It becomes apparent to him that he is actually dead; the gaping bullet wound in the side of his head should have been a dead giveaway. As Chaim travels around Poland searching for his family and the peaceful afterlife, he meets different people from his lifetime, including his also dead Rabbi who has taken the form of a crow. He even stumbles upon the decapitated head of a Nazi who is also dead, the same Nazi who had actually shot Chaim in the head, and finds himself dragging the debilitated soldier around to protect him. In doing so, Chaim has to come to terms with forgiving his very killer. As the story progresses, Chaim comes to realize that finding his family is not the only hurdle he must overcome. The moon has gone missing from the night sky and without it in its proper place; Chaim must take responsibility and put the moon back in its place if he is ever to join his family in the peaceful afterlife. Chaim initially balks at this and spends a great deal of the story trying to enact revenge on those he was wronged by. He eventually resurrects the rest of the dead and leads them across a great wilderness to a hotel that by all accounts seems to by the peaceful afterlife. He even meets his family there. But, alas, he comes to find that the hotel is merely a rejuvenating center for the dead before they depart for the afterlife and what's more, he is not allowed to stay. He has a job to do. He alone must find the moon, dig it up, and return it to the night sky. Despaired and unsure of what to do, he can only exist in limbo. Time marches on around him. He continues to inhabit his old town and is joined by two older Hasidic Jewish men who can see him and are aware of his plight. Together they figure out where the moon is and how to put it back in the sky. Finally, after The Holocaust, after the fall of communism, Chaim is able to join his family in The World to Come.
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Best scene in story:
My favorite scene in the book was when Chaim and the rest of his people find the rejuvenating hotel and he's meeting up with all of his close friends and family he knew in his life before. I liked when he came to realize that he would not actually be allowed to stay with his family because he had unfinished business in the world.
Opinion about the main character:
I actually really didn't like the main character Chaim. I could sympathize with him at times, such as when he was feeling lonely or desperate or when he had to lug around the severed Nazi head. But I hated him when he had sex with the sickly 14 year old girl whose family had occupied his home after his death. I thought that was obscene and unnecessary.