Breakfast with the Ones You Love

Eliot Fintushel is known for his short stories in magazines such as Asimov's, Analog, Strange Horizons and Amazing Stories. Fintushel has been nominated for the Nebula and Theodore Sturgeon Awards.

I enjoyed Fintushel's teen novel, Breakfast with the Ones You Love. It features many of my favorite story elements: a charismatic heroine hiding behind a tough image, a realistic world which coincides with the fantastical, a (to me) exotic culture to explore -- in this case Judaism. It's the kind of imaginative page-turner I would have devoured in high school.

Note, this is a teen novel, inappropriate for younger readers. The heroine is romantically attracted to Jack Konar, an older teen who deals drugs. In one scene they use hashish. Fintushel deliberately has Lea use the racist term "Yid" to refer to Konar, until they are better acquainted. This bothered me and didn't seem realistic, at least I hope it wasn't.

The writing is technically accomplished. Lea Tillim narrates her story in a compelling, unique voice. I admire Fintushel's ability to write dialogue in distinctive voices. His tale opposes wildly differing characters: Lea, a runaway who can kill with her mind, teams up with a spiritually-obsessed drug dealer and a minyan (prayer group) composed of the middle-aged, the devout, the young, the hen-pecked, the drunk... versus the Devil, his daughters, mobsters and shape-shifting agents of the Evil One.

The results are more suspenseful than funny, perhaps because of the gritty atmosphere. Talking cats and Devil-worshipping grannies are natural hazards in Lea Tillim's world.

Does it hang together? For me it did but don't expect Hemingway. I like this book because it isn't realistic. Fintushel compresses fantasy, humour and suspense into one corner of everyday life. We can choose not to believe, Lea says, but then we'd never know how everything has changed.

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