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Breakfast with the Ones You Love
Eliot Fintushel
Bantam Spectra, 288 pages

Breakfast with the Ones You Love
Eliot Fintushel
Eliot Fintushel has published short stories in Asimov's, Analog, Strange Horizons, Amazing Stories, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, Crank!, and in the anthologies Jewish Sci-Fi Stories for Kids, Jewish Detective Stories for Kids, Nalo Hopkinson's Mojo: Conjure Stories, and Polyphony 4. His fiction has appeared in the annual anthology The Year's Best Science Fiction several times. He has been nominated for the Theodore Sturgeon Award and the Nebula Award, and has twice won the National Endowment for the Arts Solo Performer Award.

Eliot Fintushel Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Breakfast with the Ones You Love

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

Lea Tillim is either a) a runaway with a bad attitude who has gotten messed up with a young drug dealer, and who may have killed at least one man; or b) a pretty young girl with a special ability who is helping a young Jewish man rescue the Chosen. She is definitely the heroine of Eliot Fintushel's first novel, Breakfast With the Ones You Love. Fintushel has written a number of striking stories over the past decade or so, often funny (even to the point of wackiness), often on Jewish themes, often about lonely people looking for some sort of family. And all that describes this novel fairly well -- though it's never really "wacky" in its humor.

Lea has run away from home after a family tragedy the nature of which is slowly revealed. She is determined to show no feelings to anyone -- partly because of her past, and perhaps also because her looks get her unwanted attention from men. (And even women like her fellow waitress.) She is working at a restaurant whose owner may have mob connections. And she finds herself attracted to a young man she calls "the Yid," who she saves from a beating one day by using her special mental power to kill his attacker.

The Yid -- real name Jack Konar -- believes that he is the Chosen of the Chosen, and that it is his duty to build a spaceship to bring the Chosen people to another planet upon the coming of the Meschiach. Lea, who he calls "shiksie," is helping his project, even though, as a "shiksie" she is not eligible to join him. This is taking place in an abandoned section of a Sears and Roebuck. Lea also talks to her cat, who isn't too happy with her misuse of her powers. And she keeps avoiding the good attentions of her landlady, whose daughter died years before, and who clearly is looking for a sort of replacement.

All this is goofy enough. And for sure there is an "out" available -- Lea and Jack are both pretty damaged people, and maybe she is just a messed up runaway and he's a deluded drug dealer. At this level the story still attracts -- Lea's personal story is affecting. We worry about her: Jack is not always a good influence (the killings seem at first to be taken rather too lightly, for one thing); she has a distressing past; she needs to decide to reconnect with the world. And, eventually, with her long lost brother. But we can't, in the end, ignore the fantastic parts, which spiral from a plot to use her power to fix a boxing match, to a realization that her landlady may be a tool of Satan, to an eventual duel with that being himself, as the End of the World approaches.

I enjoyed this novel, but I don't think it ranks with Fintushel at his best. (My personal favorites are the sadly neglected "Milo and Sylvie" and "Auschwitz and the Rectification of History.") The main problem is that the fantastical conceit -- Jack's part of the story, about the Chosen and the Meschiach and the spaceship -- simply doesn't convince, and despite some clever and bravura description, it didn't interest me. By contrast, Lea's story is quite affecting, and her personal growth, by the end, seems real and earned. This will be one of the best first novels of the year in the field -- and don't forget to try not just this novel but Fintushel's shorter works.

Copyright © 2007 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at

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