Snow in August is a strange book in the sense that it veers between two different genres so rapidly, it’s almost as if the agent insisted that the ending match some marketing expectations that had been laid out but not fulfilled. It is Brooklyn after the war and Michael Devlin is the son of Irish immigrants, in stereotypically post-war America. Michael is a normal kid, who befriends a refugee, a Rabbi from Prague who fled the Holocaust and ended up in America. As the entire neighbourhood is content to wallow in a miasmic anti-Semitism, Michael learns that the Rabbi is one of the smartest people he’s ever met and a quick learner, despite his seemingly advanced age. When the neighbourhood gang decides to teach the Rabbi a lesson for his Jewishness, Michael pulls out the ultimate weapon in the Hebrew mythological arsenal: a golem. The golem is unstoppable and restores order to the neighbourhood, avenging all the wrongs and humiliating all the wrongdoers in typically juvenile fashion.
This book started off really well and maintained its momentum until almost the end. Bad people exist and bad things happen to good people, something we have learned to expect, regardless of a belief in any sort of supernatural deity or not. What’s not expected is the deus ex machina of the Golem at the end, who turns the preceding sections into a farce. If one was going to summon supernatural powers to defuse a situation involving street toughs, why not do it right from the get go and avoid all the ensuing pain. Seen as a fable that brings myth to life, the book is fine, but seen as an existentialist work that’s chronicling the reality of life in postwar Brooklyn, the ending is a disappointment.