Of all Ozick’s many fictional creations, none is as formidable and heartbreaking as Ruth Puttermesser, the heroine of the five stories that make up this quasi-novel. Like her name (which means “butter-knife”), Puttermesser has little dignity: She is an aging civil servant, living alone in New York City. Yet in this series of tragicomic fantasias, we see Puttermesser’s inner life come pouring out: She summons up a Golem to serve as a surrogate daughter, and falls bookishly in love, and gets conned by a Russian immigrant relative. In these surreal parables, Ozick communicates bittersweet truths about love, aging, feminism, and life in America’s most Jewish city.