The Five Books of Moses Lapinsky

Patty Osborne

Here in Vancouver we had Honest Nat’s Department Store at 48th and Fraser, and in Karen X. Tulchinsky’s book The Five Books of Moses Lapinsky, Toronto had Lenny’s House of Bargains on College Street near Spadina, which, according to Tulchinsky’s story, was started by Yakov Lapinsky and his cousin Max.They were Jewish immigrants from Russia who survived the Depression by selling, door-to-door, anything they could get their hands on, and eventually managed to open their bargain store. I love Tulchinsky’s depiction of Toronto during the 1930s and ’40s, including some serious anti-semitism, the boxing world inhabited by Yakov’s son Moses, and the complex relationships between two generations of the Lapinsky family. The structure of the book, which jumps around in time, gives the story even more depth, but the few chapters written from the modern-day perspective of Yakov’s grandson feel like intrusions in an otherwise rich and absorbing family saga.

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