Susan Henderson Recommends

“I like books that grapple with the big, unanswerable questions,” Susan Henderson says. “Bruce Bauman’s And the Word Was (Other Press) asks this: “How much must you love god to accept Auschwitz? Or whatever happened to you? To accept that god exists after that?” Neil Downs, an ER doctor living in NYC loses his only child in a Columbine-like school shooting. Unable to save his son in his own ER, he waits hours for his wife to arrive, learning then that she had spent the day with another man. In a tailspin against which his Judaism seems useless, he flees to India, not to set off on a spiritual quest so much as to become lost in a place as different and far way as he can imagine.

“Downs seeks out one person there: his favorite author, the controversial Levi Furstenblum. A Holocaust survivor who lost his wife and child in Auschwitz, Furstenblum later penned (among other works quoted within this novel) the chilling and satirical novella, “Chamber of Commerce” –a story about Hitler’s winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Downs hopes to learn from the cranky and reclusive Furstenblum how to persevere in what seems to be a cruel, meaningless world. Instead, his mentor teaches him a powerful lesson about the anguish of victims mirroring the hate of their oppressors. Downs faces a number of other challenges as the story progresses: a dogged media, a lawsuit filed against him by the parents of one of the gun-wielding students, an affair with an activist named Holika, and a surprising revelation from his grieving wife whom he’d hoped to stop loving. The triumph of this book is its ultimate hopefulness without any pat answers. Downs’ spirituality remains elusive but life continues to engage him, and he has not lost his ability to love. He’s retained enough, at least, to manage the pain and uncertainty of life.”

Susan Henderson speaks sign language, is learning Mandarin, plays soccer with Ritchie Blackmore, has an unrequited crush on Dylan Thomas, knows all the words to the Go Go Crankin’: Paint the White House
Black album and lives in NY with some pets, a costume designer, and two boys (see one eighth of one boy in photo).