1st Books Library, 2003
ISBN 1-4033-6941-0
Almost all wanderers share a secret thought—to escape from the structured, habitual scheme of things and find abode in a strange, disorganized world of uncertainties. One concept lures them: the withdrawal.
         Michael Hoffman says Withdrawal is his first novel. The book, however, never gives even the slightest hint to a reader who examines the theme, the plot, and the brilliant characterizations that this is a maiden voyage.
         To Len Fishman, the protagonist of the story, home is a symbol of confinement. He is repelled from home until he succeeds in becoming a stranger—to others as well as to himself.
         After twenty-five years of self-exile, Len returns to his yellow room, his old mother, and to his Alzheimer-stricken father. Len is forty-six now, and finds his transcendence incomplete. While vibrant memories unsettle Len, the sheer absence of memory keeps his father content and lighthearted.
         When Len’s former English master, Mr. Bloom, invites him to a small party at his house, Len steps into a new life path. Involuntarily, he is sucked deeper into a complex circle of relationships. The wanderer hits ho me..
         Len’s fifth-grade memories soon grow to dominate his life. During this miraculous return to childishness he adorns himself with faded jeans and T-shirts.
         No loss is greater than the loss of youth. No memory is more painful than the memory of the painful past. When confronted by an uncertain future and an unpromising present, Len earnestly seeks a return to the distant past. Of particular interest to him now is Sonia, on whom he had a “crush” during his school days. It is with disappointment that he learns that Sonia has become a Wall Street lawyer, a widow, and the mother of two children.
         Len’s ‘search’—it is ultimately too small a word for so great a process—leads him to fundamental questions of love and family. Sadly, they remain unanswered.
         Withdrawal’s greatness lies in its ability to simultaneously charm, stun and shock the reader. Mr. Hoffman succeeds in portraying Len’s unsettled personality, his growing skepticism and his mounting fascination with youth in a simple yet profound style. The book is strikingly original; the prose steady and coherent and the characters naive and life-like. Recommended.