Heir to the Glimmering World

Genre: Fiction; Author: Cynthia Ozick; Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

In Ozick’s lovely, smart, and muddled sixth novel,Heir to the Glimmering World, Rose, an 18-year-old bookworm in Albany, N.Y., takes a job with the Mitwissers, a mysterious family of German refugees who just barely escaped the Nazis. Her duties are vague, and Rose ends up serving as nanny to the Mitwissers’ neglected toddler, nurse to the unbalanced mother, and secretary to the father, a renowned scholar of an obscure religious sect. The Mitwissers, Rose learns, have been living off the largesse of James A’Bair, a dangerously seductive figure who has insinuated himself into their household. As a boy, James was immortalized by his father in a series of classic children’s books, and has spent his life spending the fortune they made and trying to repair the damage they did to his psyche. While every strand of this hugely ambitious novel is strange and original, Ozick never quite manages to pull them all together.

Originally posted September 3 2004 — 12:00 AM EDT

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