The Pursuit of Happiness

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Although they could not know it at the time, Naomi Gruenbaum’s acquisition of a diamond saved the family from the Nazi ovens and began the journey to Jerusalem. It was not a voyage of discovery Moses Gruenbaum wished to make, and his transplantation to New York City at the turn of the century is not without complaint. Nevertheless, the family surmounts the obstacles faced by any immigrant to the United States, particularly on the part of the second generation, and the road to fame and riches is in sight.

But the history of the Gruenbaum family, their various descendants and the collateral lines which time and circumstances produce, is not without trials and tribulations. Some meet with success, some with repeated failure; some achieve fame, others notoriety; some disappear without a trace.

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS is both unique and traditional in its presentation and organization. The reader will find an enthusiastic celebration of the rise from poverty to prosperity and its tragic converse. At the same time, the author advances the narrative by means of vignettes and a resort to reverse chronology which requires careful attention if confusion is to be avoided. Nevertheless, as readers of her earlier novel LOVINGKINDNESS know, Anne Roiphe has a deft hand with characterization and plot development; THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS confirms that she has not lost her touch.