Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

City of Laughter

by Temim Fruchter

A rich and riveting debut spanning four generations of Eastern European Jewish women bound by blood, half-hidden secrets, and the fantastical visitation of a shapeshifting stranger over the course of 100 years

  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 384
  • Publication Date January 16, 2024
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-6128-4
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $27.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Publication Date January 16, 2024
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-6129-1
  • US List Price $27.00

An ambitious, delirious novel that tangles with queerness, spirituality, and generational silence, City of Laughter announces Temim Fruchter as a fresh and assured new literary voice. The tale of a young queer woman stuck in a thicket of generational secrets, the novel follows her back to her family’s origins, where ancestral clues begin to reveal a lineage both haunted and shaped by desire.

Ropshitz, Poland, was once known as the City of Laughter. As this story opens, an 18th century badchan, a holy jester whose job is to make wedding guests laugh, receives a visitation from a mysterious stranger—bringing the laughter the people of Ropshitz desperately need, and triggering a sequence of events that will reverberate across the coming century. In the present day, Shiva Margolin, recovering from the heartbreak of her first big queer love and grieving the death of her beloved father, struggles to connect with her guarded mother, who spends most of her time at the local funeral home. A student of Jewish folklore, Shiva seizes an opportunity to visit Poland, hoping her family’s mysteries will make more sense if she walks in the footsteps of her great-grandmother Mira, about whom no one speaks. What she finds will make her question not only her past and her future, but also her present.

Electric and sharply intimate, City of Laughter zigzags between our universe and a tapestry of real and invented Jewish folklore, asking how far we can travel from the stories that have raised us without leaving them behind.

Praise for City of Laughter:

A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
A Most Anticipated Book from Nylon, San Francisco Chronicle, Them, Stylecaster, Electric Literature, Our Culture, Hey Alma, and Unpacked

“[A] brainy and richly textured debut . . . Bringing a queer sensibility and a deep understanding of Modern Orthodox Jewish tradition to novel writing, Fruchter asks whether finding comfort in mystery is a viable alternative to standard happy endings or bleak fates. City of Laughter argues that flouting convention makes space for more authentic, expansive stories and more authentic, expansive lives . . . In this book, a new generation accepts the complicated lacunae of history; what they can’t abide is silence and obstruction.”—New York Times

“[A] remarkable debut novel . . . [This novel] is a collection of beautiful scraps—scraps of folktales and memory, hidden family histories, love letters, accounts of strange happenings in the past and present—all tangled together and rewoven into a whole that’s strange, lush, imaginative and pulsing with life . . . [The prose] moves from shimmering and dreamlike to sharply funny to wonderfully contemplative . . . This is a book full of belly laughs, intergenerational wonder, queer beauty, Jewish history, and storytelling that reshapes worlds.”—BookPage (starred review)

“A striking portrait of the power of queer imagination . . . both wondrous and circadian . . . With City of Laughter, Fruchter has crafted an intellectual but still deeply emotional narrative, one that pauses to contemplate but never feels lost in its musings and meanderings . . . a genuinely immersive read. Conventional wisdom would have us believe a porous story is unsatisfying, but City of Laughter proves quite the opposite. Lines between generations can melt away. Holes in a story can frustrate, but they can also be filled with queer imagination.”—Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, Autostraddle

“A gorgeous exploration of ancestry and queer Jewish life . . . stunning.”—Shondaland

“[A] deliciously spellbinding debut by [a] literary star-on-the-rise . . . [In City of Laughter,] we’re reminded that the stories we inherit, whether told or untold, are the ones that guide us to the questions we were born to ask, and what we find (or don’t) will find its rightful place in the blank pages we were born to fill.”—Greg Mania, Stylecaster

“[Fruchter] is uber-talented, and she proves it in her debut novel, City of Laughter, an amalgam of sapphic love, family secrets, and Jewish folklore . . . Fruchter’s ingenuity is on full display . . . [She] entices her readers by creating formidable and interrelated forces. With her intergenerational debut novel, uniquely blending queerness, Jewish spirituality, and generational silence, Fruchter manages to captivate us on every page.”—Wayne Catan, Washington City Paper

City of Laughter is one of the most ambitious and thought-provoking books I’ve ever read.”—Cathy Alter, Washington Independent Review of Books

“In the opening pages of Temim Fruchter’s debut novel, she writes that laughter serves as ‘both a balm and a mask for the sad parts’ of life, a perfect encapsulation of the comfort that this story offers.”—San Francisco Chronicle Datebook

“A wondrous intergenerational story of queerness and Jewish folklore . . . Fruchter draws on folk tales both real and imagined to create a tender and unforgettable portrait of Jewish culture, faith, and community. This dazzling and hopeful novel is not to be missed.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“With prose that is erudite and alive, this fantastic debut novel explores queer love, first heartbreak, the loss of parents, and the deeply human desire for ancestral connection.”—Booklist

“Exquisite prose . . . This stunning debut heralds an author to watch.”—Shelf Awareness

City of Laughter is a gorgeous and full-hearted exploration of inheritance, grief, desire, and connection, at once a story about what it means to go looking for the ghosts we always knew were there and what it means to be in the right place to encounter the unexpected things we didn’t know we were waiting for. A sharply observed, tenderly complex, and wildly delightful debut by an original and impressive new voice.”—Danielle Evans, author of The Office of Historical Corrections 

“A debut novel that explores queerness, Judaism, and international sagas, City of Laughter is a detailed and moving portrait of women trying to find themselves.”—Sam Franzini, Our Culture

City of Laughter has the sparkle and fire of something truly rare. Deeply developed and carefully crafted, this novel is chock full of wit and tenderness and an incredible amount of heart. Temim Fruchter is a steady hand when it comes to assessing the deep tangle of fraught family dynamics. History sits inside itself here, its heartbeat echoing out into the future, rippling like silk. Without question, City of Laughter is one of the most thoughtful and thought-provoking books I’ve ever read.”—Kristen Arnett, author of the novel With Teeth

“If you like sagas that span generations and origin stories, this book is for you.”—Hey Alma

“Temim Fruchter’s City of Laughter is deeply ambitious, deeply fun, queer mythological storytelling at its finest.  A powerful, profound, beautifully-told and thought-provoking debut.”—Jordy Rosenberg, author of Confessions of the Fox

City of Laughter is a rich, lyrical portrait of four generations of unruly longings, a multigenerational tale of seeking, of laughter, of the sacred hiding in plain sight. Every line is haunted by loving ghosts.”—Zeyn Joukhadar, author of The Thirty Names of Night 

“Reading City of Laughter is like stumbling upon an heirloom treasure chest: richly imagined, painstakingly crafted, full of delights. In sonorous, inventive writing that pays homage to a glorious folkloric tradition, Fruchter gives us the stories of queer Jewish femmes through the varied generations of an unforgettable family.”—Sarah Thankam Mathews, author of All This Could Be Different

“Temim Fruchter’s debut novel is moving, funny, beautifully crafted, rich with insight, and wildly gripping. The queer Jewish femme multi-generational family saga I didn’t know I needed!”—Andrea Lawlor, author of Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl

City of Laughter is a bountiful, curious, huge-hearted celebration of desire and memory, illuminating the eternal, indestructible nature of queer inheritance, and reminding us yet again that history is folklore and folklore is history.”—Elisa Albert, author of Human Blues

“An absolute pleasure, a thrilling journey that endlessly finds new ways to surprise and delight, challenge, and enthrall. Very few debut novels are as ambitious as this; even fewer deliver on even their biggest promises so assuredly.”—Matt Bell, author of Appleseed