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The Twoweeks

On the surface, The Twoweeks by Larry Duberstein is a masterful story about extramarital relations and the complications inherent therein. Read a little closer, and it’s about the eternal tension between time and memory.

The plot of the novel revolves a pair of more-or-less happily married young lovers who don’t happen to be happily married to each other. To do away with any potential sexual attraction they might have for each other, the pair decide to embark on a two-week fling — hence the title of the novel. Yet what starts off as a simple fling (as if such a thing could ever exist) turns out to be anything but simple.

While Duberstein’s treatment of the emotional peril inherent in the novel’s basic conceit is both nuanced and intensely human, his framing of the tale lends texture to the narrative. As readers, we learn about the events thirty years on as the key players argue over seemingly petty details and reminisce almost antagonistically over the time they shared. The effect of this layering is to raise many issues about the tangled relationships between time, memory, and identity. And, like all good art, The Twoweeks poses more questions than it answers.

Throughout the novel, Duberstein’s talents as a prose stylist are in full bloom, and the author emerges throughout as not just a master of well-wrought phrases and descriptions, but as a true student of the human condition. Consider, for example, his take on what he terms “the eternal spousal question”: To the eternal spousal question (“What’s wrong?”) the eternal answer (“Nothing”) can never be rendered convincingly… If the question must be asked, then “Nothing” is simply not among the plausible answers.

Truer words have never been spoken!

All told, The Twoweeks is the work of a master wordsmith whose intimate knowledge of the human heart is rivaled only by his perspicacity, a writer who is comfortable dealing with uncertainties and who understands that a good question can sometimes be worth a thousand answers.

Review by Marc Schuster

Nazareth, North Dakota

In this incredibly imaginative debut novel, Tommy Zurhellen fills the literary void between Jonathan Goldstein’s Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bible (which presents a new take on the Old Testament) and the Left Behind series (which takes on the Book of Revelation and the tribulations contained therein) with a fresh look at the story of Christ. This time around, however, Christ is raised in a small town in North Dakota, and his name is Sam. What’s more, an elephant has escaped from a traveling circus, the town’s corrupt sheriff has just passed away, and a young rabble-rouser named Jan is making trouble on the banks of the Little Missouri with talk of the imminent arrival of a prophet.

Nazareth, North Dakota, however, does far more than offer an updated version of the New Testament. Rather, by transplanting the story of Christ to a contemporary setting, Zurhellen moves his readers from the somewhat two-dimensional realm of the iconic to a complex world of competing motivations, fears, hopes, and desires. In other words, he humanizes the story of Christ and, in so doing, manages to tell one heck of a tale that’s as much about the complexity of living in the modern world as it is about reinventing the icons of Christian tradition. All of this is to say that Nazareth, North Dakota isn’t just clever. It’s also an engaging and compelling read — an excellent book from a promising new voice in literature.*

*By which I mean the author.  Coincidentally, the press that’s responsible for Nazareth, North Dakota, Atticus Books, is also a promising new voice in literature. Check them out at their website!

Review by Marc Schuster