by Herman Wouk
Ninety-seven-year-old Herman Wouk (or a fictionalized version of him) is minding his own business. And his business, as you know, is writing novels. He’s finally tackling the ambitious project he’s wanted to write for decades, the story of Moses. It is a huge coincidence, therefore, when a hot Hollywood producer finagles a meeting insisting that he’s the only man for the job of writing a Moses screenplay.
Well, Mr. Wouk wants nothing to do with this. Meetings are refused until a rabbi intervenes. Ultimately, it is revealed that the epic film’s funding—through unconventional sources—rests upon Wouk’s participation. Under duress, he agrees to act as a consultant to the film, with final script approval. A screenwriter for this all-but-unwritable film must be found. Enter Margo Solovei, a young, independent film auteur who has eschewed her orthodox Jewish upbringing. And it is actually Margo who is at the novel’s heart, as she pursues this project while dealing with producers, directors, actors, Herman Wouk, and any number of people tying her to her roots.
Oh, yeah, I should mention that this is an epistolary novel, always a fun and inventive way to tell a tale. It’s comprised of letters, emails, faxes, IMs, Skypes, transcripts, voicemails, and so forth. Through the correspondence of the characters’ personal and professional lives, a web of connections is formed. And in the end, The Lawgiver is a romantic comedy. I rooted for lovers to find their way. I rooted for unsavory characters to get their comeuppance. And I rooted for Mr. Wouk, who has proved that at 97 he is as sharp as he ever was. I was moved by the novel’s epilogue, and I shall be waiting with anticipation for his next two novels.