Without question, the principal interest of [Heavy Sand] is in its portrayal of Jews during World War II. The novel tells the story of the Rakhlenko family, a large Jewish clan in the Ukraine who are destroyed by the Nazis. The first half of the book chronicles the life of the Rakhlenkos before and after the Revolution….
The family's life in the town is rendered with sentimental flourishes that, on occasion, strain the credibility of Rybakov's narrative…. Rybakov tends to exaggerate the stable, bucolic nature of life in the small Jewish towns of the Ukraine and Belorussia. We know, after all, that the great Jewish communities of the West were founded by those who had fled poverty and...
(The entire section is 523 words.)