Broder's "Taking Care of Cleo" is a cleverly disarming mix of psychological realism, romance and comedy. The author of the story collection "The Sacred Hoop" and, with his wife, Gloria Kurian Broder, the Russian family saga "Remember This Time," Broder combines a storyteller's delight in complicated predicaments with a painter's eye for landscape and body language, and a poet's sense of place. . . . The setting he so lushly evokes is Charlevoix, Mich., a small Lake Michigan resort town. It's 1928, the height of Prohibition, and Charlevoix is the site of a turf war between bootleggers, a dangerous situation that has barely registered with the hard-working Bearwalds, the town's only year-round Jewish residents. . . . In a story line that could have been lifted from a Greek tragedy--or an American sit-com--envious and competitive Arabella boasts carelessly about her husband's success and inadvertently launches the rumor that Henry is muscling in on the Purple Gang's bootlegging operation. To make matters even more dire, Cleo, who has become a gifted mechanic, finds and salvages a smuggler's boat, claiming its valuable cargo. Soon the family is the target of increasingly alarming attacks.
Broder's blithe depiction of gangsterdom . . . . plays in odd contrast to his insightful rendering of the emotional turmoil experienced by each of the Bearwalds as their lives implode. His portrait of Cleo, the source of the novel's radiance, is particularly arresting. As Cleo proves that she can live her own life, Rebecca realizes that her sense of self is based entirely on taking care of Cleo. Now that Cleo doesn't need her anymore, who will Rebecca become? Ultimately Broder's sparkling, suspenseful and compassionate comedy of errors deftly reveals the complex symbiotic relationship between caregivers and the cared for, categories that are not always as clearly delineated as we might think.
Causes Bill Broder Supports
Amnesty International, AFSC, Heifer International, Impact Fund, Ploughshares,