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City of Laughter

ebook / ISBN-13: 9780349704845

Price: £22

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A rich and riveting debut spanning four generations of Eastern European Jewish women bound by blood, half-hidden secrets and the fantastical visitation of a shapeshifting stranger over the course of 100 years.

City of Laughter follows a young queer woman stuck in a thicket of generational secrets back to her family’s origins, where ancestral clues begin to reveal a lineage both haunted and shaped by desire.

Ropshitz, Poland, was once known as the City of Laughter. As this story opens, an 18th-century badchan, a holy jester whose job is to make wedding guests laugh, receives a visitation from a mysterious stranger – bringing the laughter the people of Ropshitz desperately need, and triggering a sequence of events that will reverberate across the coming century.

In the present day, Shiva Margolin, recovering from the heartbreak of her first big queer love and grieving the death of her beloved father, struggles to connect with her guarded mother, who spends most of her time at the local funeral home. A student of Jewish folklore, Shiva seizes an opportunity to visit Poland, hoping her family’s mysteries will make more sense if she walks in the footsteps of her great-grandmother, Mira, about whom no one speaks.

What she finds will make her question not only her past and her future, but also her present. Electric and sharply intimate, City of Laughter zigzags between our universe and a tapestry of real and invented Jewish folklore, asking how far we can travel from the stories that have raised us without leaving them behind.


A wondrous intergenerational story of queerness and Jewish folklore . . . Fruchter draws on folk tales both real and imagined to create a tender and unforgettable portrait of Jewish culture, faith, and community. This dazzling and hopeful novel is not to be missed.
Publishers Weekly
With prose that is erudite and alive, this fantastic debut novel explores queer love, first heartbreak, the loss of parents, and the deeply human desire for ancestral connection.
A gorgeous and full-hearted exploration of inheritance, grief, desire, and connection . . . A sharply observed, tenderly complex, and wildly delightful debut by an original and impressive new voice.
City of Laughter has the sparkle and fire of something truly rare . . . chock full of wit and tenderness and an incredible amount of heart. One of the most thoughtful and thought-provoking books I've ever read.
Kristen Arnett, author of WITH TEETH
Deeply ambitious, deeply fun, queer mythological storytelling at its finest. A powerful, profound, beautifully told and thought-provoking debut.
Jordy Rosenberg, author of CONFESSIONS OF THE FOX
A rich, lyrical portrait of four generations of unruly longings, a multigenerational tale of seeking, of laughter, of the sacred hiding in plain sight. Every line is haunted by loving ghosts.
Zeyn Joukhadar, author of THE THIRTY NAMES OF NIGHT
Richly imagined, painstakingly crafted, full of delights . . . pays homage to a glorious folkloric tradition.
Sarah Thankam Mathews, author of ALL THIS COULD BE DIFFERENT
Funny, beautifully crafted, rich with insight, and wildly gripping. The queer Jewish femme multi-generational family saga I didn't know I needed!
A bountiful, curious, huge-hearted celebration of desire and memory, illuminating the eternal, indestructible nature of queer inheritance and reminding us yet again that history is folklore and folklore is history.
Elisa Albert, author of HUMAN BLUES
An absolute pleasure, a thrilling journey that endlessly finds new ways to surprise and delight, challenge, and enthral. Very few debut novels are as ambitious as this; even fewer deliver on even their biggest promises so assuredly.
Matt Bell, author of APPLESEED
[A] brainy and richly textured debut . . . In this book, a new generation accepts the complicated lacunae of history; what they can't abide is silence and obstruction.
New York Times
A striking portrait of the power of queer imagination . . . both wondrous and circadian . . . Fruchter has crafted an intellectual but still deeply emotional narrative, one that pauses to contemplate but never feels lost in its musings and meanderings . . . a genuinely immersive read.
Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, Autostraddle
A gorgeous exploration of ancestry and queer Jewish life . . . stunning.
[A] deliciously spellbinding debut by [a] literary star-on-the-rise.
Greg Mania, Stylecaster
[Fruchter] is uber-talented, and she proves it in her debut novel, City of Laughter, an amalgam of sapphic love, family secrets, and Jewish folklore . . . Fruchter's ingenuity is on full display . . . [She] manages to captivate us on every page.
Wayne Catan, Washington City Paper
One of the most ambitious and thought-provoking books I've ever read.
Cathy Alter, Washington Independent Review of Books
Exquisite prose . . . This stunning debut heralds an author to watch.
Shelf Awareness