Leo Gursky is an elderly Jewish man with a weak heart who, having survived World War II in Poland, now lives invisibly in New York. Terribly lonely, he has a fear of dying unnoticed and, as a result, is preoccupied with being seen - by the delivery boy from the Chinese takeaway, by the people who watch him drop his change on the floor in a shop, by the students who sketch him when he models at a life drawing class.
14-year-old fellow New Yorker Alma Singer, named for every girl in her parents' favourite novel in an obscure book called 'The History of Love', lost her father when she was seven. A precocious child who is still struggling to understand the world without him, she worries about her grieving translator mother and her strange little brother, Bird, who believes he's one of the 36 righteous souls in every generation. She keeps a notebook called How to Survive in the Wild and compiles obsessive lists.
Tying these disparate narrators together is Zvi Litvinoff, a Pole living in Chile and the author of book-within-a-book 'The History of Love'. How the three are linked is something that should only emerge as you read the book and immerse yourself in their lives. They are wonderful characters, as are the people who only have walk-on parts - especially Leo's aged friend, Bruno, who shuffles around listening to recordings of 'Ulysses' on his headphones, and Zvi's wife, who floods their house to erase a manuscript.
'The History of Love' is not a typical love story but, rather, a glimpse into several perfect moments. Neither Alma nor Leo finds quite what they are looking for, but the journeys that they embark on lead them to an altogether different and unusual resolution. Engaging and memorable.