David Lurie learns that all beginnings are hard. He must fight for his place against the bullies in his Depression-shadowed Bronx neighborhood and his own frail health. As a young man, he must start anew and define his own path of personal belief that diverges sharply with his devout father and everything he has been taught.... "From the Paperback edition."
But the greatest accident of all was the Holocaust. No one--not David, not his grim father, not his uncle nor any of his friends--can even begin to imagine the mentality that would bring about such a catastrophe. As a result, anything German became taboo.
For David, who, although in fragile health, is a genius, this presents major difficulties. He has become interested in studying the Bible, not just the Torah, which is bad enough in his Orthodox Jewish community; it means reading questionable sources--Jews who, in Orthodox thought, are more like goy. Worst of all, it means reading German scholars; even if they are Jewish, David is surrounded by hostility from members of his yeshiva. David, aided by the greatest Talmudic scholar alive, is forced to choose between the heritage he loves and his passion for learning and understanding.
Chaim Potok, in his finest books, always writes about the conflict between the secular world and that of Orthodox Jewry. He writes about it with the most obvious love for his Orthodox heritage, but with enormous empathy for those in conflict. Whatever the resolution, it isn’t easy for his protagonist and always comes at great cost.
Potock not only is a master storyteller, but he is also a superb writer. Outside of a few words that anyone of my generation heard while growing up on the East Coast of the U.S., I have never heard Yiddish spoken. Potok narates his main story line and conversations with short, simple declarative sentences that have a sort of sing-song (the best way I can describe it) rhythm; I have no doubt that it imitates spoken Yiddish.
But David is someone who loves nature, finds comfort in the zoo and the parks. When Potok describes these scenes and David’s reactions, his prose becomes lyrical; his sentences are complex and filled with the wonder and delight that David feels when he feeds the zoo’s billy goat or is walking along a path in the park to a picnic area. David also dreams, and many are nightmares; then the prose is composed of long run-on sentences, clauses strung together by the conjunction “and” and darkly stunning in their descriptive power.
Potok moves easily with the skill of a master writer among these three styles, weaving a story that is both moving and thought-provoking. His stories are never simple, but they do reveal a world that is mostly hidden from the gentile view, one that is never filled by stereotypical characters but by real people who come from a revered and precious tradition and who must make their way in a secular world. In sum, a powerful book, beautifully written. Highly recommended.
The novel offers the story of a young Jewish man's coming-of-age, from a boyish
As he grows he grows in wisdom, educated by life about death, duty, hatred, tradition. "We each have a job to do," his father is fond of saying, yet it takes our hero David Lurie a very long time to determine just what his own job may be. His cousin's path is a sure one, just as has been his mother's, his father's, his uncle's, each way dictated by custom, by family, by law. His own path is a trickier one, and only through nearly constant and literally feverish introspection is he able to find it and to find the courage to pursue it.
This book is a magnificent one, rich in detail, alive with the simple observational brilliance that make Potok such an exceptional author.
This is an impression of the Jewish experience of the early 20th century...but not from a European perspective. The young narrator is
David Lurie is the sickly but academically brilliant son of Polish Jewish emigres. His father helps run an organisation dedicated to helping Polish Jews start a new life in the States. But the family history forms a big part of the child's experience: the frequent family trips to the wooded Bronx zoo overlay the images of the Jewish resistance in the Polish forest; and as his search for religious truth lead him to a secular university rather than the yeshiva, a sense of betraying his roots...
Utterly brilliant writing, 100% recommended!