American Heaven

A novel by Maxine Chernoff

May 1, 1996 • 6 x 9 • 256 pages • 978-1-56689-041-0

Irena Bozinska, beset by difficulties with love, language, and change, is a mathematician who has recently emigrated from Poland to America. She works as an attendant for an aging jazz musician who longs for one last moment of musical glory in spite of his arthritic fingers. Jack Kaufman (“one of the more compelling characters of recent fiction” —Kirkus), cared for by a mysteriously sad young woman, is a Chicago gangster nearing the end of a colorful, violent life. Joined together by the simple circumstance of sharing the same apartment building, these four lonely people begin to form surprising, life-changing bonds with one another.

Drawn with Maxine Chernoff’s critically acclaimed wit and lyricism, American Heaven, from Chicago to Warsaw, at the beginning of life’s journey or nearing its end, is a potent, unforgettable story of hope, forgiveness, and the ultimate power—tenuous though it may be—of human connections.

About the Author

Maxine Chernoff has published six books of fiction and eleven books of poetry.  Her books with Coffee House Press are Bop (1986); American Heaven (1996); and Some of Her Friends That Year: New and Selected Stories (2002).  The latter two books were nominated for the Bay Area Book Award.  Her first book of stories, Bop, was reprinted in the Vintage Contemporary Fiction Series. With Paul Hoover, she received the 2009 PEN Translation Award for The Selected Poems of Friedrich Hoelderlin (Omnidawn Press).  She coedits the long-running literary journal New American Writing and chairs the Creative Writing Department at San Francisco State University. She has read and taught writing in many countries including England, Belgium, Scotland, Australia, Russia, China, the Czech Republic, Brazil, and Kenya.


“There’s not one extraneous word, emotion, or thought in this mesmerizing concerto of a novel. Chernoff has gone beyond the inventive virtuosity of her last book and composed an intricate tale of amazing scope and resonance. . . . Chernoff’s ear for inner voices and eye for telling detail are exceptional, as are her timing, humor, and perception. This is her best yet.” Booklist, starred review

“An intimate study of love and friendship, and the stoic resignation with which we sometimes do without both, this latest from Chernoff introduces four memorable characters on a quest for human compassion. . . . An enjoyable and engaging novel.” —Kirkus