Leo Gursky has lived in stunning loneliness for most of his life and loved but one woman devotedly, a girl he grew up with in the old country, Poland. Leo stays behind when she goes to America, only to see his entire family annihilated by the Nazi’s.
Years later, after living as a refugee, he arrives in America, only to learn his sweetheart has married, believing him dead in the pogroms. Leo heart having been broken by Alma, the only girl he would ever love, and by Isaac, the son who doesn’t even know he exists.
Now, nearing the end of his life, Leo reflects often on the meaning of his life, on what will be left of him after he is gone. What Leo doesn’t know is that he does have a surprising legacy that may or may not keep him from being invisible forever.
Leo Gursky writes a book about Alma, which he calls “The History of Love”. During the war he entrusts the manuscript to a friend but is told later that it has been destroyed in a flood. Many years afterwards, when Leo is in his eighties, a copy of his lost book is sent to a woman who has a daughter called Alma and a son who believes he is the Messiah.
Not far away from Leo Gursky, also in New York City, lives Alma Singer. Named after the heroine in her mother’s favorite book, fifteen-year-old Alma wants to be a naturalist. Alma and her younger brother Bird are both coping with the recent death of their father, as is Alma’s mother, a translator who receives a surprising commission from a mysterious stranger to translate an obscure Spanish book titled THE HISTORY OF LOVE into English. Alma, who imposes all kinds of romantic fantasies on the stranger who communicates only by letters, starts out on a quest to find the letter writer as well as the real-life Alma who may have inspired the novel’s author.
As she reads the pages, young Alma Singer is changed, filled with a deep, indefinable yearning. Her subsequent search for connection will open the doors of the past, releasing years of loneliness and regret, reaching across generations: from the pogroms of the Jews in their homelands to a cosmopolitan city in South America where the book is published; to America, where lost souls wander the streets, where fathers and sons never meet, where a woman grieves, a young boy prays to be the Chosen One and a girl finds her way to the one person who will extinguish the burning in her soul. In the end, Leo and Alma come together in a surprising way and by means of a most unexpected catalyst.
Beautifully written, with exquisite sensitivity and compassion, The History of Love will open your heart, fill you with the bright light of understanding and leave you enriched for the experience. Krauss has created an extraordinary gift, not just a novel, but a journey into the deepest chambers of the human heart.