Sweep, by Jonathan Auxier

reviewed by Ellen G. Cole, Temple Isiah

Golem meets Mary Poppins in an energetic super-hero adventure built on Jewish legend and Victorian England’s social horrors. Developments keep characters constantly on the run, shielded and saved at the last second by a reincarnated Golem. His shape starts differently, but the monster’s facts stay true to tradition. The hulk in the Prague attic is replaced by an ever-growing lump of soot in a London attic. Soot is vital to the support of the oppressed child chimney sweeps who are major characters in the novel. Despite her poverty, Nan, the beleaguered Dickensian protagonist, is lively, smart, thoughtful, full of hope, eager to try and dare. As the escalating mayhem proceeds, the underlying mystery of the girl’s origin surfaces in fragmented clues relayed in moving, poetic passages. These passages and other memories suggest that Nan’s “parenting sweep” and her friend Toby are Jewish immigrants to London from unnamed Yiddish speaking roots. The local climbing sweeps form a gang to help Nan defeat the evil villain sweep bosses. These boys do not understand the Golem is all Nan needs. The children are also helped by a lapsed Jewess, a school teacher seeking to renew her roots. While few characters are Jews, tikkun olam (repairing the world) underwrites many scenes. The Golem, who cannot save himself, saves the children, their sense of wonder and their friendship for each other in a beautifully written, emotional novel.(Ellen G. Cole, AJL Book Reviews, Feb/Mar 2019).