The Assistant, Bernard Malamud's second novel, originally published in 1957, is the story of Morris Bober, a grocer in postwar Brooklyn, who "wants better" for himself and his family. First two robbers appear and hold him up; then things take a turn for the better when broken-nosed Frank Alpine becomes his assistant. But there are complications: Frank, whose reaction to Jews is ambivalent, falls in love with Helen Bober; at the same time he begins to steal from the store.
Like Malamud's best stories, this novel unerringly evokes an immigrant world of cramped circumstances and great expectations. Malamud defined the immigrant experience in a way that has proven vital for several generations of writers.
"His best novel . . . The Assistant is as tightly written as a prose poem." --Morris Dickstein in Leopards in the Temple: The Transformation of American Fiction 1945-1970
This new specialty-interest audio publisher is launching its line with two strong titles in addition to this one: Betrothed by S.Y. Agnon, read by Peter Waldren, and Miss America, 1945: Bess Myerson and the Year that Changed Our Lives by Susan Dworkin, read by Bess Myerson and Adam Grupper. Known especially for the craft of his short stories, Malamud (The Fixer; The Natural) published this novel in 1957. Frank Alpine is an Italian-American drifter who lands a job working for a humble Jewish grocer in Brooklyn. When he falls in love with the storekeeper's daughter, he is forced to reexamine his moral and spiritual beliefs. Guidall, one of audio's finest narrators, extracts a strong sense of atmosphere from Malamud's richly descriptive language. He throws himself into the many charged dialogue scenes--complete with the ethnic accents required--expressing pathos and humility without overdramatizing.
This is an extremely creative and compelling novel with a bit of everything.
I didn't like the ending. I would have liked Frank to stay with Helen.