Anyone who has seen Fiddler on the Roof knows that Hodel, Tevye’s second daughter, gets on a train to Siberia early in the musical’s second act and is never heard from again. In her novel, After Anatevka, Alexandra Silber, imagines Hodel’s life in prison camps in Siberia with her Socialist husband, Perchik.
While After Anatevka features many characters and scenarios from Fiddler on the Roof, knowledge of the musical is not necessary to read and enjoy the novel. Silber introduces each of the characters and provides all necessary background information.
Silber also references several scenes from the musical and fills in gaps between scenes. For example, there is a scene in the musical where Hodel receives a letter from Perchik informing her that he has been arrested in Kiev and sent to Siberia, but the audience is never privy to the contents of this letter. In After Anatevka, Silber has imagined what the contents of this letter might have been and included the text. After Anatevka delves deeply into the relationships between Hodel and her four sisters in a way that Fiddler on the Roof does not.
Silber’s Hodel is a compelling heroine. She is stubborn and strong in the face of all kinds of hardship. She frequently reflects on the importance of endurance. Despite her own difficulties, Hodel is empathetic to the difficulties of people around her and to her family members as they are forced out of Anatevka.
Silber’s writing is so full of description of everything from challah baking to the geographical landscape of Siberia that After Anatevka reads like poetry. It is clear that extensive research went into the writing of After Anatevka. Even early 20th century torture instruments are described with accurate detail. This attention to detail draws the reader further into the often dark and dismal world of Hodel and Perchik.
After Anatevka is a beautifully written and action-packed novel that is absolutely worth a read. The story’s ending will leave you wishing the novel were at least 50 pages longer.