All Things Alexandria (Sherri) Szeman

The Kommadant’s Mistress

There aren’t too many authors that can weave a tale with such  complete disregard for style, rules, turn signals and plot line; and still keep this reader absolutely riveted to her deck chair;  but Sherri Szeman ( aka: Alexandria Constantinova Szeman,) winner of the 1993 Janet Heidinger Kafka Award,  has.

In her fictional portrayal of Nazi saddest war criminal, Maximilian Ernst von Walther (1909 – 1947), and Jewish poet and political activist, Leah Sarah Abramson (1920- ?), this author has spun a tale of brutal humanity, glimpses of mercy, and then marinated it mankind’s right to survive at all costs. In 255 pages of riveting prose, Szeman reminds us that the atrocities of genocide live long after the crimes themselves, and those who survived, do so only because of forces greater than themselves.

Sherri Szeman takes the reader through the tapestry of two lives in what first feels like a disjointed collage. But as the subtlety of the stories rhythm begins to emerge, I found myself  not only immersed in her characters, but in the fact that in order for her to give me, the reader, the best advantage point, she had to first free me from all known constraints of what a story should look like.  Once she was able to accomplish that, I discovered a hitherto unknown ability to read completely from the right side of my brain.

Never before has an author asked me to jump from one scene to the next without warning and gotten away with it.

Yet Szeman did from start to finish. In one sentence of dialogue and I am listening to the Kommadant telling his wife Merta that he will never cheat on her again,  and the next sentence I am ease-dropping in on the mistress, talking with an entirely different group of individuals,  in a completely different time and setting.

No turn signals whatsoever. Not even a flashing yellow light to indicate that the author’s characters are about to redefine quantum physics, and it might be a good idea for me to grab hold of something before they do.

Reader’s whiplash is what should have happened, even a schizophrenic episode wouldn’t have been unfounded.

But  I experienced neither. Once I got my sea legs under me, every un-signaled turn, every time period leap and every imaginary flash-back only added to the stories rhythm. By the time I finished the last page I found myself in love once again.

If I were giving out stars and rating this author, I would have to give her 5-star across the board.  I can hardly wait to read her second book;

Only With My Heart


  1. Mikelle Gaines · July 20, 2012

    Fabulous review for a fabulous book. I loved this book and look forward to reading it again.

    Mikelle Gaines

    • SSpjut · July 20, 2012

      I agree. What a wonderful convolusion of story line, character and history. I love that a college professor is the one who broke the rules. Makes my lapses so much more guilt free. Thanks for the recommend.

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