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Monday, November 30, 2020

Fiddler on the Roof "Sequel" Lacks Warmth and Charm of Original

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

"I am convinced that what joins all humanity together is our capacity to endure.  Endurance is the condition under which we may feel both the glory of our distinctiveness and the depths of our sameness.  Endurance, which is distinct from suffering ... endurance unites us.  Endurance that is, thus, holy" (315).

One of my favorite musicals of all time is the 1971 film version of Fiddler on the Roof.  I've never read the books by Sholem Aleichem on which the movie is based, nor seen the beloved Broadway play that preceded the motion picture, but I love the story of Tevye, a poor Jewish milkman, who clings desperately to tradition while the modern world marches on in spite of him.  No matter how many times I watch it, the movie never fails to move me.  I laugh, I cry, I sing along ... it's just a gem of a film.  The motion picture ends with Tevye and what's left of his family and Jewish community being forced out of Anatevka, their ancestral home, in the wake of violent "demonstrations" against them by Russian soldiers.  Although the story arc feels complete, it leaves a compelling question:  What happens to them all after they leave Anatevka?

Alexandra Silber, who played Hodel—one of Tevye's daughters—on stage, often wondered what happened to her character after the events portrayed in Fiddler on the Roof.  She decided to answer that question for herself with After Anatevka.  Although the novel drops in on Tevye and his other family members, it focuses on Hodel and her fiancé, Perchik Tselenovich.  In Fiddler, Perchik is arrested for his radical ideas and exiled to Siberia.  After Anatevka starts where the movie leaves off, with Hodel journeying to Siberia to find her love, who is imprisoned in a labor camp.  Although she begs for his freedom, Hodel's pleas fall on deaf ears.  All she can do is stay near Perchik and wait patiently for his release.  How long will it take?  Will the two ever be able to marry and live happily ever after?

As you can probably tell from the skimpy story summary, not a whole lot happens in After Anatevka.  With no real plot, the tale drones on and on, with little action to keep it interesting.  The characters are not well developed, which makes it tough to feel connected to them.  Especially since there are so many of them.  Keeping all of Perchik's labor camp friends straight is a losing battle!  I did finish the book since I wanted to know what would happen to Hodel and Perchik, but considering how it ends, the whole novel just feels pointless.  For me, it ended up being a slow, depressing, dissatisfying slog.  I did enjoy Hodel's memories of life with her family in Anatevka—those flashbacks brought the warmth, humor, and heart of Fiddler on the Roof to the story, which lacks it otherwise.  Without those things, After Anatevka just doesn't have the charm it needs to be a worthy Fiddler companion.  Bummer.   

(Readalikes:  I can't really think of anything.  You?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a few F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, blood/gore, sexual content, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

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