Book Review: The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon

Book: The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
Publisher: 2008, Harper Perennial
Genre: Fiction
Buy It: Amazon

Description (from Goodreads): For sixty years Jewish refugees and their descendants have prospered in the Federal District of Sitka, a "temporary" safe haven created in the wake of the Holocaust and the shocking 1948 collapse of the fledgling state of Israel. The Jews of the Sitka District have created their own little world in the Alaskan panhandle, a vibrant and complex frontier city that moves to the music of Yiddish. But now the District is set to revert to Alaskan control, and their dream is coming to an end.
Homicide detective Meyer Landsman of the District Police has enough problems without worrying about the upcoming Reversion. His life is a shambles, his marriage a wreck, his career a disaster. And in the cheap hotel where Landsman has washed up, someone has just committed a murder—right under his nose. When he begins to investigate the killing of his neighbor, a former chess prodigy, word comes down from on high that the case is to be dropped immediately, and Landsman finds himself contending with all the powerful forces of faith, obsession, evil, and salvation that are his heritage.
At once a gripping whodunit, a love story, and an exploration of the mysteries of exile and redemption, The Yiddish Policemen's Union is a novel only Michael Chabon could have written.

My thoughts: Ever have one of those books that no matter how many times you try to read it or what environment you're reading it in, you can't focus? This was one of those books for me. I started The Yiddish Policemen's Union back in June when I still lived in Boston and was working at my old job. I guess life just got in the way for me for awhile but I'm a bit neurotic when it comes to reading, so last weekend I told myself I had to finish this one before picking up something new. For the most part, it gets good reviews (at least on Goodreads). I feel like I completely missed the boat here. The language and the characters were overly developed, I was constantly getting lost or zoning out. I had to go back to read whole chapters multiple times and found I wasn't absorbing it. It read like a textbook to me. Perhaps it's just not a subject I'm interested in (although some of my favorite books deal with the Holocaust). I still am not entirely sure what The Yiddish Policemen's Union was about even after reading multiple summaries and reviews online.  I found the story to drag on, never really grasping my attention. The Yiddish terms sprinkled throughout the book made me feel like I needed to have my internet's browser opened up to Google far too often. If it wasn't for my rule of always finishing a book once I've started, I would have thrown this one at the wall just a few chapters in. I don't have anything good to say about The Yiddish Policemen's Union, so I'm just going to stop here. I'd suggest picking up Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay instead, which gets 4 stars from me. I really feel like Chabon dropped the ball on this one, but it did win some awards, so what do I know? Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go find a really excellent book to follow this one before I get depressed!

The verdict: 1 star 


  1. I too tried so hard to read this one! And I just could not do it. In fact, it is one of the few books that I could not finish. It is still on my bookshelf and I keep thinking I will try again. You have not encouraged me!! But I do agree with your assessment.

  2. Glad to know I'm not the only one who had trouble with it! I really wanted to like it after reading Kavalier & Clay. I'm sad to say I probably won't be reading anymore Michael Chabon in the future.