Lech by Sara Lippmann


A provocative work that hits you in the “kishkes” (guts) Lech, the debut novel by Sarah Lippmann, speaks with the voices of five sinister characters, all of whom exhibit the predatory nature of humanity.

The title echoes the biblical imperative in Genesis “lech lecha”…go, go forth” directed at Abraham. Lech is simultaneously the moniker given to Ira Lecher, the principal protagonist whose name aptly encapsulates his rapacious conduct.

Set on Murmur Lake in the Catskills, the background harkens to the once popular “borsht belt” where generations of privileged Jewish families vacationed in ostentatious splendor of its grand hotels. Now, almost abandoned, the once desirable spot populates a disparate group of disaffected drifters and migrants. Some of the property is used by “summer people” as a camp site for Sholem Yisroel and a country fair.


Years earlier a naked woman was found drowned in Murmur Lake. Dubbed Murder Lake by the locals, nobody had been able to clarify why Chana, an Orthodox woman, would wonder from her nearby community for a dip on Lech’s parcel of land. Separated from his wife, Lech lives alone awaiting to find a buyer for his hard-to-sell property; in the meantime, he rents a few cabins, primarily to women like Beth. 

Not quite healed from a secret abortion, Beth escapes her husband and drives with their only son Zack toward her summer rental. From his house, Lech observes Beth is every move. Beth is too needy to resist Lech’s predatory advances.

Lech also has his eyes on Paige, a young waitress and volunteer at the local hospital. Paige longs to live in Tampa, perhaps to work at Wicki Watchi as a mermaid. She saves every penny and then some from swiping drugs and selling them to Tzvi, a Haredi dealer whose mother’s body was discovered in Murmur Lake. However, Mom Noreen heists her daughter’s money to hustle young males at the local bar faster than Paige can earn it.  

The crazy thing about this “noir” novel is Sarah Lippmann’s divine prose. Her exhilarating evocative imagery prove a stark counterpoint to the despicable characters she creates. We follow the grim and at times gritty journey of five trashy oddballs, tumbling along without purpose or direction because Lippmann’s ethereal prose seduces the reader to care what happens to them.    

Lippmann dives into themes of feminism, dispossession, loneliness, motherhood and antisemitism asking how does one go forth or cope with a disordered life? “Animals find their way into tight places then can’t escape.” Lippmann’s’ characters seem to have the same dilemma. They are stuck, unable to move forward, to liberate themselves from the daemons that plague them.

Beautifully written, Lech is a piercing light into the dark side of human nature.