As with S. Bird's previous story, The Jake Fischer Stories is set in New York City and centers around Jewish culture (that's evident from the first paragraph): and what an atmospheric description it is: "My best friend, Stevie Rabinowitz, had come with me for my last ride. The #4 train pulled into the elevated platform at Mosholu Parkway as we ran to the first car and pressed our faces to the front glass. We saw the beautiful Bronx spread out before us as we barreled through each stop as if we were on our own magic carpet ride through the clouds."
And if 'beautiful' and 'Bronx' aren't words you usually find in the same line, it's because Bird celebrates his city in more ways than one, making The Jake Fischer Stories a love story on more than one level.
The essence of being Jewish is woven into nearly every line in The Jake Fischer Stories as the protagonist examines his heritage, world, and move away from his beloved Bronx. Even when it's far away, he remains connected by family and culture.
The Jake Fischer Stories succeeds in vividly painting Jewish culture and a young boy's move within and outside of it, creating a series of family and wider-world encounters that will successfully draw Jewish and non-Jewish readers alike.
Any reader with a pre-existing affection for New York will especially relish the ongoing descriptions of the City.
This is one of the big attractions of The Jake Fischer Stories - a sense of place - and even as the protagonist moves in an ever-widening circle away from his heartland, he finds within him the sense of place and culture that keeps him grounded as he faces a journey to Israel, the threat of the Vietnam War, the rise of civil rights in America, and his own evolving political and social involvements.
As he moves from childhood to young adulthood and well into his adult years, readers follow not only the path of his life and awakenings, but the evolution of his perceptions - and The Jake Fischer Stories becomes ever clearer. It's not a romance per say, and it's not a love story in the sense of a genre read: it's a life story, and the love and heartache inherent in following a life well lived is also a story of failure and success.
In the process of describing life cycles and family and cultural connections, The Jake Fischer Stories succeeds in becoming more than the sum of romance or love - it's a story of strategies developed for handling life and it's a saga of one man's determination to break the cycle of despair through love.
Be forewarned: The Jake Fischer Stories is not for romance readers, but for followers of life stories and how connections are made and broken in the process of a life well lived. And therein lays its strength.