From the civil rights struggle in the United States to the Nazi crimes against humanity in Europe, there are more stories than people passing each other every day on the bustling streets of every crowded city. Only some survive to become history.
As two men – recently released from prison, Lamont Williams and Australian historian Adam Zignelik, try to survive in early twenty-first century New York, history comes to life in ways neither of them could have foreseen. Two very different paths lead to one greater story as The Street Sweeper, in dealing with memory, love, guilt, heroism, the extremes of racism and unexpected kindness, spans the twentieth century to the present and spans the globe from New York to Melbourne, Chicago to Auschwitz.
We have tackled some big books this year and Perlman’s The Street Sweeper is the last of them. A sweeping (sorry about the pun) novel of over 500 pages, its story content is dense and at times harrowing, but was given huge praise from the majority of our group.
Some of us did find its volume too daunting and at best ‘just another holocaust story’, but of those that read to the end, it was thought unanimously a well-written, emotional story that horrified yet moved us.
We found Lamont an endearing character and quickly jumped on his bandwagon for the duration of the ride. Adam was intriguing and contained many characteristics of Perlman’s other protagonists, particularly from Three Dollars and Seven Types of Ambiguity.
And then there was the ‘memory’ theme that wove strong throughout the book …
Memory is a willful dog. It won’t be summoned or dismissed but it cannot survive without you. It can sustain you or feed on you. It visits when it is hungry, not when you are. It has a schedule all its own that you can never know, It can capture you, corner you or liberate you. It can leave you howling and it can make you smile.
This paragraph was sighted by a few of us as being very poignant to the storyline, as there were many aspects and views that needed to come together. And in the end history is written by memories … what they contain and what they miss.
Overall The Street Sweeper scored high with our group. An indication that this novel promises a high quality read for those looking for such.