The Lost Shtetl
February 16, 2021
Today I spoke with Max Gross about his book The Lost Shtetl (HarperCollins, 2020). Imagine a Jewish village hidden in the forests of Poland that somehow escapes the Holocaust. Eighty years later, a young woman divorces her husband and runs into the surrounding forest. The town sends a young man to find her. He’s an orphan and expendable because he’s not that good a marriage prospect, but suddenly he finds himself in modern-day Poland. He finds it hard to believe that all the Jews of Poland have been murdered along with most of Europe’s Jewry. Officials toss him in an institution and study him for months until a Yiddish translator is found. And when they fly him home in a helicopter, the townspeople think the Messiah has finally come. The Lost Shtetl is about love, family, community, religion, class, government, politics, antisemitism, assimilation, and history itself. Although the town never heard of electricity, running water, or cars, never advanced in science or medicine, and never even heard of sliced bread, it’s not clear that progress is going to be good for everyone in Kreskol.
Max Gross was born in New York City in 1978 and is the son of two writers. After attending Saint Ann’s School and Dartmouth College, he worked at the Forward and as a travel correspondent for the New York Post before becoming the Editor-in-Chief of Commercial Observer. He wrote a book about dating called "From Schlub to Stud" but has since been rescued from the single man's fate by his beloved wife and son, with whom he lives in Queens, New York. The Lost Shtetl, his first novel, is a winner of the National Jewish Book Award, a recipient of an honorable mention for the Sophie Brody Medal, and winner of the Association of Jewish Libraries Fiction Award. Gross is also a lifelong traveler, having studied in Scotland and London, and having lived in Arad, Israel for a year. When not writing, he is a degenerate poker player who once had the distinction of beating the 2003 World Series of Poker champion, Chris Moneymaker, in a media versus professional tournament.