Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Chosen; Chaim Potok

 















Title: The Chosen
Author: Chaim Potok
Publication Year:  1967
Publisher: Fawcett and Recorded Books
Edition: paperback and audio
Source: my shelves and library audio
Setting: NY
Date Completed: May - 2013
Rating: 4.5/5

Recommend: yes

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."

25 comments:

  1. Nice review. I read this book when I was in Highschool and really liked it.

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  2. This sounds really familiar and I wonder if I was supposed to have read it some time in my schooling days. You definitely make it sound interesting.

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  3. I read this a million years ago, and remember loving it, but of course the content has long flown from my brain. One day I'll revisit it!

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  4. Oh gosh, the number of parents who want their kids to toughen up...Nice review.

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  5. That one does sound familiar to us too, but the title doesn't.

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  6. I've always been curious about this one. Thanks for posting a review; I'll add to my TBR shelf.

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  7. This has sat on my shelf for far too long also! I really like Potok's My Name is Asher Lev, and I know I will like this one as well. Must get it on a reading list somehow!

    The quotes were wonderful--they really whet the appetite.

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  8. I remember when my cousin read it (decades ago) and suggested I read it as well. Must get on that ;-) I think I'd enjoy the audio.

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  9. Gosh, I was just thinking about this book the other day. I read it a long time ago, and found myself wanting to read it again. I love it when bloggers write about older books that I either haven't read or want to read again. Thanks for this wonderful review.

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  10. This has been on my TBR list for so long! Looks like I really need to read it.

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  11. This was published when I was in high school and I heard about it all over - just never read it. I must correct that!

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  12. I read this in high school and loved it. I went on to read everything else the author wrote. Maybe time for a reread!

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  13. This was one of my college roommate's favorite books... I really need to read this one.

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  14. it's definitely a classic :) I remember reading it in high school. :-)

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  15. ah, I have devoured and loved every book by Chaim Potok, except his very last one I thought was not too good - Old Men at Midnight

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  16. I loved this book, too. I found the Jewish culture information fascinating, too, while I don't have a particular interest in the topic. The writer just can tell such a good story that everything is interesting.

    Good to see that you loved this too.

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  17. I never read this one - I'm thinking I need to add it to my wish list. Thanks!

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  18. I read this ages ago and remember loving it. Your post reminded me that the person I lent it to, never returned it! Must ask about that as it had all of my notes.

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  19. Let me jump on the bandwagon and say that I also should read this book! Wonderful review, Diane. It sounds quite profound.

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  20. I also read this in high school and really enjoyed it. There is also a sequel called "The Promise" that was also very well written.

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  21. This one has been on my TBR shelf for several years. I may just have to get the audio version because then I will get to it sooner.

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  22. This book is at my local library. I'll check it out. Thanks for the recommendation.

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  23. This one sounds very interesting. I've been very curious about the Hasidic Jewish community!!

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  24. Unfortunately, I read this during a readathon and struggled with it. Probably did myself a disserve by reading it in that format.

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  25. I've had this on my shelves for far too long as well. Need to get to it!

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