The Gift of Asher Lev

by Chaim Potok

Other authorsChaim Potok
Book, 1997

Barcode

123461055

Call number

FIC POT

Collection

Publication

New York : Fawcett Columbine, 1997.

Description

"Rivals anything Chaim Potok has ever produced. It is a book written with passion about passion. You're not likely to read anything better this year." THE DETROIT NEWS Twenty years have passed for Asher Lev. He is a world-renowned artist living in France, still uncertain of his artistic direction. When his beloved uncle dies suddenly, Asher and his family rush back to Brooklyn--and into a world that Asher thought he had left behind forever.... From the Paperback edition.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Joycepa
The Gift of Asher Lev
Chaim Potok

It is 20 years after the events in the first book, My Name is Asher Lev. Lev has lived those years in France--currently in a small town in the south of France. He is married, with two children, his daughter Rochelel and his young son Avrumel. Lev has just had a
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disastrous show in Paris; while all his works sold, those critics he respects have been devastating, calling his work repetitive and worse. Agreeing, Lev is now suffering through a dry period--he can not paint. In the midst of all this, Lev receives a phone call from Brooklyn telling him that his Uncle Yitzchok has died.; he returns to Brooklyn with his wife and children for the funeral, telling himself that it is only for the week of mourning, but full of foreboding and with the terrible feeling that he has seen the last of his home for some time.

The sequel does not have the power of the first book. My Name is Asher Lev covered Lev’s entire life from childhood until young adulthood at 25, a tumultuous time; The Gift of Asher Lev covers a 6 month period of time at age 45. Events moved fast in the first book; there is not that much going on externally in the second, but much, much more happening in Lev’s interior life. The conflict with his father is still there, but muted by the joy the grandparents have in their grandchildren.

But power there is, because Lev is faced yet again with an agonizing choice in which it appears that no matter which way he decides, the personal cost is terrible. His internal turmoil is illuminated by imaginary conversations and meetings with “the Spaniard”--Picasso, now dead some years--and Jacob Kahn, his mentor, also dead some years. He is haunted by his artistic past, never allowed to forget it either in his birth community or with others.

Potok manages to keep the interest high in this book despite a deceptively “slow” unfolding of the plot, through various writing style devices; he constantly shifts from past tense to present tense, even when describing the same scene. It jolts the reader awake and alert; it is very effective. also, if the two books are read close together in time, it is evident from the beginning that the 2nd book is sharper, harder-edged. There are many lyrical passages but the sequel does not have the dream-like quality that pervaded much of the first book. Lev is middle-aged, with a family, and the world is different.

While in his previous book, Potok wrote sympathetically of the Hasidic Jewish community, this book shows some of the darker aspects of what is a fundamentalist religion. The Rebbe, considered a saint, is not above reaching for secular power, and Lev’s father is a willing aide, traveling to Washington and to Israel in an attempt to influence elections. There are a few sentences in the book that make it very clear that the Rebbe and therefore the entire community that follows him, slavishly, is not a “liberal”; Asher’s father says, “We are not going to vote for the homosexuals. We are not going to vote for the abortionists” as he explains why practically the entire community, under direction from the Rebbe, will support the Republican party. Lev’s wife Devorah dismisses Dukakis as someone who, in France, would be seen as weak, as lacking in his convictions. Power, strength are admired--and sought. Other results of the conservative way of interpreting Torah are also brought out in Asher’s conflict with his cousin Yonkel, one of Yitzchok’s son, over the father’s art collection, which has been left to Lev in his care. It is clear that males are more important than females, no matter how much daughters are loved.

While it does not have the glamor of the first book, The Gift of Asher Lev is yet another thoughtful--and powerful--book from Potok. Not to be missed, after reading My Name is Asher Lev.
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LibraryThing member carka
Follow up to My Name is Asher Lev. Rich experience of Hasidic Judaism. Asher is grown and has a family. His son is chosen to follow in his father's footsteps by serving the Rebbe.
LibraryThing member presto
Twenty years on from when we left Asher Lev we now find him married with two children and living in France. He, and is work, are suffering in the wake of some strongly critical reviews of his latest Paris show. Then he receives news of his uncles death, and he and his family return to Brooklyn.

The
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story follows Asher’s turmoil as he confronts a number of problems on his return from exile: his relationship with his fellow believers, difficulties with his cousins over his uncles will, and more significantly his period of artist’s block and the potential prospects for his beloved son, the five year old Avrumel. His turmoil over the last is all the more intense as only he seems able to appreciate the situation, namely that their religious leader the Rebbe is getting old and having no son of his own will need to select a successor, the obvious choice is Asher’s Father, but as Asher is obviously unacceptable as his father’s successor the role would fall to Avrumel. Here a parallel is drawn with Abraham and Isaac, is Asher prepared to sacrifice his son, he must confront the issue: his art or his son.

This is a beautiful and at times mystic story, Asher often drifts into a dream like state having visions of past, present and possibly future events. The characters are superbly drawn, Avrumel is a delightful young lad; Asher’s father seems much more human now; and with Asher we really get inside the mind of an artist. The Rebbe too is a remarkable man, full of wisdom, never laying down the law but giving guidance through reasoning and suggestion.
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LibraryThing member fingerpost
Many years after his exile from his hasidic home in New York (My Name is Asher Lev) Asher returns for the funeral of his uncle, and brings his wife and two children along. Uncle Yitzok it turns out has harbored an unusual secret from the Jewish community, and Asher lands in the middle of it. The
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Rebbe has his own secrets, that deeply involve Asher and his family... and "The Gift" of Asher Lev turns out not be his art.
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LibraryThing member turtlesleap
Sensitive and moving, lyrical in the narrative, poetic in the descriptions, artfully drawn in the characterizations. Altogether excellent.
LibraryThing member iayork
Compelling: Twenty years on from when we left Asher Lev we now find him married with two children and living in France. He, and is work, are suffering in the wake of some strongly critical reviews of his latest Paris show. Then he receives news of his uncles death, and he and his family return to
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Brooklyn.

The story follows Asher's turmoil as he confronts a number of problems on his return from exile: his relationship with his fellow believers, difficulties with his cousins over his uncles will, and more significantly his period of artist's block and the potential prospects for his beloved son, the five year old Avrumel. His turmoil over the last is all the more intense as only he seems able to appreciate the situation, namely that their religious leader the Rebbe is getting old and having no son of his own will need to select a successor, the obvious choice is Asher's Father, but as Asher is obviously unacceptable as his father's successor the role would fall to Avrumel. Here a parallel is drawn with Abraham and Isaac, is Asher prepared to sacrifice his son, he must confront the issue: his art or his son.

This is a beautiful and at times mystic story, Asher often drifts into a dream like state having visions of past, present and possibly future events. The characters are superbly drawn, Avrumel is a delightful young lad; Asher's father seems much more human now; and with Asher we really get inside the mind of an artist. The Rebbe too is a remarkable man, full of wisdom, never laying down the law but giving guidance through reasoning and suggestion.
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LibraryThing member christina.h
It was lovely to reconnect with Asher as an adult, where I found myself just as concerned for him all these years later as I had been in the beginning. This is a sequel that does not disappoint, and manages to keep the cadence and personalities one remembers for 'My Name is Asher Lev' very much
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intact.
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LibraryThing member NadineC.Keels
Asher Lev, now a husband and father living in France, has become a world-renowned artist, even as his art continues to grate against his Hasidic Jewish observance. He's stayed away from the rest of his family and Jewish community back in Brooklyn, but the passing of his uncle draws Asher into a
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difficult and perplexing journey he isn't prepared for in The Gift of Asher Lev by Chaim Potok.

Now, in all honesty, if I hadn't already gotten to know and relate to Asher in the preceding novel, My Name is Asher Lev, one of my all-time favorite books, it's doubtful that I would have stuck with this sequel from start to finish. The walk through this novel was rather dry and tedious to me at times, but I remained curious to see where this mysterious, mystical leg of Asher's journey would lead.

Besides, I already knew how this author's measured and understated but intentional plot development can eventually bring certain details and questions into startling light, which does happen in places in this story.

I couldn't put into a book review all the reasons why I relate to Asher, an artist, even as I, a writer, don't share his rather somber outlook on life or what life apparently must be for a serious creative. And for personal reasons I won't get into, this story wound up angering a part of me—which nothing in the novel could resolve.

Nevertheless, the story served to further impress upon me my takeaways from the previous book, concerning the tension of the unfathomable mystery that can come along with a profound gift. In an essential echo of one of my takeaways from The Chosen, another all-time favorite of mine by this author: greatness is not, and need not be, easily understood.
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LibraryThing member patl
I love the world and tensions that Chaim Potok draws me into. This story continues with the world of the previous book My Name is Asher Lev, twenty years later. Asher Lev is married and has a daughter and a son, is living in exile from the Brooklyn Ladover community in the south of France. He's
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experiencing artistic tension after some harsh criticism at his last show. When his beloved uncle dies, he and his wife and children return to Brooklyn for the mourning.

That is the stage set for The Gift of... On it plays out similar themes to the prior book, plus artistic integrity, the difficult choices of a husband and father and son and disgraced member of community. Potok creates a world so real that I wanted to visit the Ladover in Brooklyn, and especially to see Lev's paintings and drawings and am disappointed that I cannot.

The two novels (and I am now convinced that they both must be read; do not stop with the first) draw the reader deeply into questions of community and tradition, creativity and identity.

A small note. After completing the first novel, I really wanted to dive more deeply into art appreciation (the first novel in particular teases the reader through an art history with just enough touchpoints so as to be tantalizing). After completing the second, I purchased family membership in my city's art museum so that we can go visit and learn.
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LibraryThing member suesbooks
This is a very interesting, educational continuation of My Name is Asher Lev. The explanation of Asher's thoughts and feelings, and the information regarding art were valuable. I also liked very much the loving characteristics of Asher.
LibraryThing member ritaer
artist and Hasid caught between two worlds, Asher must promise his son to the Rebbe for the sake of his father
LibraryThing member ValerieAndBooks
"The Gift of Asher Lev" is a sequel to the much acclaimed "My Name is Asher Lev". There is no way that "The Gift of Asher Lev" could be appreciated without reading "My Name is Asher Lev" first. This sequel was written about twenty years after we leave Asher Lev beginning his life as an artist which
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conflicts with his Hasidic Jewish upbringing. Twenty years later, Asher Lev is indeed a well-known and successful artist, but is rattled by very mixed reviews of his most recent international show. Married with two young children, he and his family travels from his long-time expatriate home in France back to Brooklyn for the event of his uncle's funeral. A series of events stretch out their stay long past their initially anticipated week or so.

In "The Gift of Asher Lev", there is the continued soul-searching and conflicts between the conservative Hasidic community and Asher's success as an artist. Once again Asher is called upon to consider sacrifices from what he considers his true self for the sake of his community and his family -- this time more complicated as his wife and children are drawn into the conflicts.

Not as compelling as the first book, but I appreciated the opportunity to revisit Asher's world and the difficulties he must endure in order to stay true to self without disappointing others greatly.
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Original publication date

1990

ISBN

0449001156 / 9780449001158

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