The Blood Lie by Shirley Reva Vernick
141 Pages (Hardcover)
Cinco Puntos Press
October 4, 2011
September 22, 1928, Massena, New York. Jack Pool's sixteenth birthday. He's been restless lately, especially during this season of more-times-at-the-synagogue than you can shake a stick at. If it wasn't Rosh Hashanah, then it was Yom Kippur, and if it wasn't Yom Kippur, it was the Sabbath. But temple's good for some things. It gives him lots of time to daydream about a beautiful but inaccessible Gentile girl named Emaline. And if she isn't on his mind, then he's thinking about his music and imagining himself playing the cello with the New York Philharmonic. Yup, music is definitely his ticket out of this remote whistle-stop town—he doesn't want to be stuck here one more minute. But he doesn't realize exactly how stuck he is until Emaline's little sister Daisy goes missing and he and his family are accused of killing her for a blood sacrifice.
Blood Lie was inspired by a real blood libel that took place when a small girl disappeared from Massena, New York, in 1928, and an innocent Jewish boy was called a murderer.
While this novella has a very important message of the damaging effects of hate, the way it is presented is not in the most effective manner. When a young girl disappears, a lie is created to divert police away from a different crime and in the direction of the Jewish "murderers". Rumors circulate, fingers are pointed, and an entire religion is blamed for the murder of a child.
My issue with this novel was that it just didn't read powerfully enough for such a huge subject matter. It takes place during Prohibition, but other than a few lines that seems a bit like forced role-playing the story really could have taken place in modern day. Maybe I'm just picky because historical fiction is my favorite, but if a story is going to be set in the past, it should really take place in the past. Other than that, the story peaks very early and then kind of just ends. There is no real build up, no suspense, no real emotion. That was my biggest issue, I wanted to connect to the characters and the plot, I just didn't care for any of them.
Based on a true story, the basis of the novel is very powerful in itself. Unfortunately, the power and raw emotion in such an event were not transferred well from page to reader. However, it was a very quick read (I read it in one sitting) and it is interesting how lie from one selfish person turns a town into chaos and socially turns against a religion.