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Publisher's Summary

The stunning new novel by the author of Sway is another "brilliant portrayal of life as a legend" (Margot Livesey).

In 1972, the American gangster Meyer Lansky petitions the Israeli government for citizenship. His request is denied, and he is returned to the U.S. to stand trial. He leaves behind a mistress in Tel Aviv, a Holocaust survivor named Gila Konig.

In 2009, American journalist Hannah Groff travels to Israel to investigate the killing of an Israeli writer. She soon finds herself inside a web of violence that takes in the American and Israeli Mafias, the Biblical figure of King David, and the modern state of Israel. As she connects the dots between the murdered writer, Lansky, Gila, and her own father, Hannah becomes increasingly obsessed with the dark side of her heritage. Part crime story, part spiritual quest, I Pity the Poor Immigrant is also a novelistic consideration of Jewish identity.

©2014 Zachary Lazar (P)2014 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"This novel of living myths and the way we manufacture them could not have found a more perfectly paradoxical backdrop: Jerusalem, the spiritual beginning of the West; and Vegas, capital of the other West, where our oldest places are restaged for fun and profit. Zachary Lazar transforms Meyer Lansky from famous mobster to mythic stateless antihero, a figure who might as easily walk out of an airport as out of Sophoclean tragedy." (Salvatore Scibona, author of The End [finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the Young Lions Fiction Award])
"Here's a truly exciting novel. The conception is bold, the execution mesmerizing. Zachary Lazar makes the old stories dangerous and urgent again, and reveals the terror beneath our tidy versions of the now." (Sam Lipsyte, author of Home Land and The Ask)
"I Pity the Poor Immigrant is work of intricate and precise mystery, a book that is like a bold monument in an empty desert, a thing built of dread, and silences, and dazzling elegance, by a worldly and masterful hand." (Rachel Kushner, author of 2013 National Book Award finalist The Flamethrowers)

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Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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This book is a real sleeper

What did you love best about I Pity the Poor Immigrant?

The person who read it could do Israeli and east European accents. Really added to the smokey flavor.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Hannah Groff, the main character, was so interesting as she grew in the story.

Have you listened to any of Cassandra Campbell’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No, but she is tops!

If you could take any character from I Pity the Poor Immigrant out to dinner, who would it be and why?

Gila Konig probably.

Any additional comments?

The story is quite complicated at first. The author is a man but he makes his woman narrator totally believable.. The parallels with King David, referred to as Kid Bethlehem, and the founding of Las Vegas is a meta plot. The mix of organized crime and the entropic decline of a Kingdom/State/Gambling enterprise is interesting. The book is short, almost like a meditation.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Intriguing novel, but narrator doesn't get it

This is, among other subjects, a fascinating retelling of the life of the American mobster Meyer Lansky, The problem for this listener is that the narrator mispronounces nearly every proper name in the book. This is a shame, since the novel is a rich fictional rendering of real events and people.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

What???

Was this a story about Israel? Was this a mom story? This book had no idea what it wanted to be

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • E. LANGBERT
  • MANHATTAN, NEW YORK United States
  • 02-19-15

disappointing

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

Main character was dull and self-pitying. Interesting part of the story was Meyer Lansky, not her. And the narrator spent too much time using an annoying accent.

What could Zachary Lazar have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

make his character more interesting. less self-absorbed. Make the intersecting plots more compelling.

Would you be willing to try another one of Cassandra Campbell’s performances?

Only if there are no dialects.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointment and boredom.