Sunday, May 22, 2011

Book Review of #1 the Chosen by Chaim Potok

Name of book: The Chosen

Author Name: Chaim Potok

ISBN: 0-449-21344-7

Publisher: Ballantine

Type of book: Young adult-adult, historical, post world war 2, 1940s-1950s, Jewish

Year it was published: 1967

Summary:


Few stories offer more warmth, wisdom, or generosity than this tale of two boys, their fathers, their friendship, and the chaotic times in which they live. Though on the surface it explores religious faith--the intellectually committed as well as the passionately observant--the struggles addressed in The Chosen are familiar to families of all faiths and in all nations.

In 1940s Brooklyn, New York, an accident throws Reuven Malther and Danny Saunders together. Despite their differences (Reuven is a Modern Orthodox Jew with an intellectual, Zionist father; Danny is the brilliant son and rightful heir to a Hasidic rebbe), the young men form a deep, if unlikely, friendship. Together they negotiate adolescence, family conflicts, the crisis of faith engendered when Holocaust stories begin to emerge in the U.S., loss, love, and the journey to adulthood. The intellectual and spiritual clashes between fathers, between each son and his own father, and between the two young men, provide a unique backdrop for this exploration of fathers, sons, faith, loyalty, and, ultimately, the power of love. (This is not a conventional children's book, although it will move any wise child age 12 or older, and often appears on summer reading lists for high school students.)

Characters:
Reuben Malter: He's the main protagonist who's a modern Orthodox Jew. His mother died from childbirth and he lives with a very devoted father who listens to him and gives him advice. He is also smart in arithmetic and likes baseball. He wants to grow up to become a Rabbi.

Danny Saunders: A savant Hassidic Jew who remembers everything he read. (Not good in math though.) He is good in baseball and becomes obsessed with Freudian writings. He grew up in silence because his father refuses to talk to him and wants to become a psychologist when he grows up.

Minor Characters: The fathers themselves were interesting and as mentioned before, I hadn't heard of anyone growing up in silence or anything of that kind.


Theme: 

The central focus was on friendship and on the relationship between father and son. The women characters weren't active or noticeable at all. The book also represents different relationships between parents and sons; in Reuben's case, he and his father are close, while Danny and his father aren't close, and for me personally, it seems to symbolize a sort of paranoia, especially when comparing this book to the sequel, The Promise. This book, despite the issues, seems to be sort of light-hearted of sorts, and I was surprised that Reuben was actually more American than Russian. (Revealed in sequel). The second book is best described as dark, and again, paranoia of the foreigners taking over.

Plot:

I think I liked a little how the plot was. The first part focuses heavily on when the two met, while the rest of it time jumps and oh so briefly goes over the issues, along with what the sides went through when it came to Israel. As mentioned before, maybe its mine age or the fact that I know very little of my faith, but the only way this book appealed to me is because of history and not for other reasons. Oh, one last thing is that this is written in first person from Reuben's point of view.


Author Information:

Chaim Potok ( February 17, 1929 – July 23, 2002) was an American Jewish author and rabbi. Potok is most famous for his first book The Chosen, a 1967 novel, which became a bestseller. The book stayed on The New York Times’ best seller list for 39 weeks and sold more than 3,400,000 copies. (From wikipedia)

Opinion:
I first became acquainted with the book last year when my teacher assigned us to read it for a class. I think I might have heard snippets about it here and there beforehand and wanted to read it, but the class gave me an excuse for getting it and becoming acquainted with it. Despite the Jewish themes, for me personally the book wasn't very appealing. I didn't hate it nor was it the greatest thing ever since sliced bread. I liked becoming acquainted with American Judaism in 1940s up to 1950s and was surprised to learn interesting facts such as that Hassidic Jews don't support Israel. For me, again, the book wasn't all that special to be honest.


3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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