Five Stars Out of Five
Published on June 10, 2007 By Larry Kuperman In Books

Let me start off by saying that Kuperman's Fire by John J. Clayton moved my more than any other book that I have read in a long time. Only 304 pages in length, it took me longer to read than I would have thought. There were parts that I read over several times to savor; other times I had to stop after only a few pages because a passage left me emotionally drained.

It is hard to put Kuperman's Fire into a category. Is it suspense? There are certainly suspenseful portions. Is it philosophy? We follow the thoughts of protagonist as he wrestles with moral dilemmas of his life. Is it religion? Certainly much of the book deals with how Jews find meaning in the modern, post-Holocaust world.

Anthony Burgess wrote a book entitled Tremor of Intent in 1966 and subtitled the book "An Eschatological Spy Novel." (Eschatology is that part of theology and philosophy dealing with the end of the world.) This is the only work that comes to mind that I can compare to Kuperman's Fire. Certainly it is intended as a tribute to John J. Clayton's writing skills to be compared to Anthony Burgess.

Michael Kuperman is a successful and wealthy man, about to become wealthier as the software company where he is a partner merges with a larger firm. But a problem arises with a large and powerful client, a problem that might threaten the merger. Is the client selling chemical weapons to terrorists and rogue states? Michael suddenly finds himself as a man who knows too much, with his life and the lives of his family at stake.

When the story opens, Michael is facing a possible divorce. He and his wife are separated by many things, not the least of which is Michael's embrace of his Jewish heritage. How the family pulls together in the face of life-threatening danger is part of the story, and John Clayton manages to weave it in without resorting to cliches. Michael is also distant from his father, who has changed his name to "Cooper" a generation ago. Again, the confrontations and reconciliations between father and son ring true. Did John Clayton, whose family name was once Cohon, draw from his own experience? Whatever the source, the people, the situations and the dialog are believable.

Michael Kuperman spends much time thinking about what it means to be a Jew today, to have come from a long line of people who have survived holocausts and pogroms, who have survived attempts at genocide in every generation. And as a Jew, Michael is commanded to repay his survival with good deeds, with Mitzvot. How he choses to fulfill that obligation is part of the story.

I highly recommend this book. The writing is often beautiful, evocative and sometimes disturbing. Kuperman's Fire has touched my soul.

John J. Clayton lives in Massachusetts, where he teaches literature and creative writing. He has published two novels and two collections of fiction.

on Jun 10, 2007
Thanks to Marjorie for turning me on to this work!
on Jun 10, 2007
Adding it to my list.