Like Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America, Chabon’s novel has a counterfactual premise: The Jews in Palestine lost the 1948 war, and to mitigate this tragic event, they were given a homeland — for 60 years — in Alaska. The book takes place in 2008, at the end of this lease, and it is also a murder mystery/detective novel of sorts, focusing on an alcoholic Jewish cop, Meyer Landsman.
For the most part, Oppenheimer raves about the book:
The Yiddish Policemenâ€™s Unionâ€? is all things to one people. Itâ€™s a noir homage; itâ€™s a work of literary realism; itâ€™s an allegory; itâ€™s a very funny satire. It manages to be thematically Jewish â€” concerned with questions of religious observance, historical rootlessness and internecine battles over authority â€” while deftly moving among genres that wouldnâ€™t ordinarily lend themselves to what is, in the end, just another story about some poor, defeated Jews. â€œThe Yiddish Policemenâ€™s Unionâ€? is a funny, sad, tough, totally compelling book, but above all, it is the least artistically parochial novel I have read in a long time. It positively disdains categories and generic boundaries.