Title: The Chosen
Author: Chaim Potok
Publication Year: 1967
Publisher: Fawcett and Recorded Books
Edition: paperback and audio
Source: my shelves and library audio
Date Completed: May - 2013
The Chosen takes place in Brooklyn, New York in 1944-1949, beginning with (2) sixteen year old Jewish boys whose lives intersect unexpectedly. Danny Saunder's father is a Rabbi for a strict, Hasidic sect. Reuven Malter, is the son of a more modern Orthodox Jew; his father is a professor, writer and political activist. Danny and Reuven play on opposing softball teams. During one of their games Danny hits a ball that strikes Reuven in the eye and he is taken to the hospital and later undergoes eye surgery.
Danny is a brilliant boy who has a strong interest in psychiatry, but his father has been busy preparing him for his inherited role of succeeding him as a rabbi. Deep down, Danny has no interest in Talmudic studies. Instead, he spends his free time at the library absorbing complex books of all types, hoping to eventually fulfill his dream of becoming a psychologist.
Reb Sanders has a strange relationship with his son Danny. There is rarely any communication unless it has to do with theTalmud. Oddly, his father does stress the importance of going to the hospital to apologize to Reuven about the accident. Reuven is not to thrilled by the visit or the apology, but Danny persists and the two eventually end up being friends. As their friendship progresses it is Reuven who communicates with Danny's father about his son's passion.
The Chosen is a book that has sat on my shelf unread for far too long. Part coming of age story, it is also a story about a deep meaningful friendship between boys through high school and college. There is also a dose of history and religion as well as talk about the modern day Israel. I thought the information about the Jewish culture as well as the differences between the Jewish sects was fascinating. Although the role of both boys seemed equally important in this story, it was Reuven who told the story, and I thought it makes sense why that happened. I haven't read a book like this one in a long time and was happy that I did.
If you haven't read this one yet; consider giving it a try.
Initially, I listened to this one on audio. The reader, Jonathan Davis, did an excellent job, but there were so many terrific passages that I also marked them up in the paperback copy that I had at home as well. I thought I'd share a few quotes with you:
- "There were fifteen of them, and they were dressed alike in white shirts, dark pants, white sweaters, and small black skullcaps. In the fashion of the very Orthodox, their hair was closely cropped, except for the areas near their ears from which mushroomed the untouched hair that tumbled down into the long side curls. Some of them had the beginnings of beards, straggly tufts of hair that stood in isolated clumps on their chins, jawbones, and upper lips. They all wore the traditional undergarments beneath their shirts, and the tzitzit, the long fringes appended to the four corners of the garment, came out above their belts and swung against their pants a they walked. These were the very Orthodox, and they obeyed literally the Biblical commandments."
- "You must remember what the Talmud says. If a person comes to apologize for having hurt you, you must listen and forgive him...What I tried to tell you, Reuven, is that when a person comes to talk to you, you should be patient and listen."
- "From the time Danny was about six or seven until the end of his last year in college, Reb Saunders, Danny's father, had deliberately created a barrier of silence between himself and his son, except when they studied Talmud together. He was frightened of Danny's cold brilliance; he wanted to teach his son what it meant to suffer."