This extraordinary novel is part of Grigory Kanovich’s ?Litvak saga,? his tribute to Jewish life before the Holocaust. Set in a small Lithuanian town in the late nineteenth century, the story begins with the arrival of a stranger who sets everyone on edge and seems to know their secrets. Is he a messenger from God, a long-lost son, a saint, or a madman? As the stranger in the velvet yarmulke makes his rounds, we meet an unforgettable cast of characters—Rabbi Uri, the aged rabbi; Itsik Magid, the strapping young woodcutter; Golda, the resourceful widow; Markus Fradkin, the wealthy timber merchant, and his beautiful daughter Zelda; Yeshua Mandel, the tavern keeper, his troubled son Simeon, and Morta, their devoted servant girl. A work of realism as well as a parable, Kanovich’s novel illuminates the most intimate fears, dreams, and longings of the shtetl’s inhabitants.