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A Far Piece to Canaan: A Novel of Friendship and Redemption Paperback – May 28, 2013


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Original edition (May 28, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062233165
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062233165
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #804,349 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Celebrated retired professor Samuel Zelinsky reluctantly leaves New Hampshire after his wife's death to visit a farm in the Kentucky hills where he lived as a child. The son of sharecroppers, Samuel has long since left that life behind—yet now he must reconnect with long-buried memories to fulfill a childhood promise to a friend.

In 1945, Sam and his best friend, Fred Mulligan, visit the Blue Hole, a legendary pool on the Kentucky River where the hill people believe an evil force lurks. Along with a couple of neighbor boys, they discover the body of a dog, surrounded by twisted human footprints—and a cave that offers further evidence that something terrible has transpired. Fearing they'll be punished for their trespasses, the boys initiate a series of cover-ups and lies that eventually leads to a community disaster.

When the Zelinskys move, Fred and Samuel promise each other that if either calls, the other will come to his aid. But Samuel's failure to keep his promise has lasting consequences he could never have predicted. Now, decades later, he confronts his failures and attempts to redeem himself, finally achieving peace through his late return to Canaan land.

About the Author

Sam Halpern is the legendary father of Justin Halpern, author of the phenomenal #1 New York Times bestseller Sh*t My Dad Says. A professor of nuclear medicine, he lives in southern California.


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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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The writing is inspirational and compelling.
Sandra Hagen-Ansert
Sadness because the book ends...and you know there is more story to be told.
Ukulele Bob
Those people are tougher than I will ever be.
bobbydig

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Luanne Ollivier TOP 1000 REVIEWER on June 5, 2013
Format: Paperback
3.5/5 A Far Piece to Canaan is not my usual reading fare. But I was extremely curious to read it, as Sam Halpern is the father of Justin Halpern - author of S*** My Dad Says. Could the same dad with the somewhat foul mouth and no filter really write a book befitting such a bucolic cover?

Surprisingly, yes.

English Professor Samuel Zelinsky's wife Nora has just died of cancer. Before her death, she made Sam promise to return to the hills of Kentucky where he spent part of his youth. Sam has never really talked about those years, growing up as the son of sharecroppers, but somehow Nora knew he had unfinished business. And Sam honours that promise.

As Sam tours through his childhood haunts, the narrative switches back to 1945 and we meet ten year old Sam and his soon to be best friend Fred Cody Mulligan. Halpern does an admirable job in bringing this time and space to life. His descriptive prose bring to life the croak of frogs, the sweetness of an apple and the coolness of a mountain stream. But not everything is idealic - there is something evil lurking around the bottomless Blue Hole. Local superstition says it's the devil, but the boys find evidence that the evil is human. This event is the catalyst for what transpires, shapes and changes the lives of Sam, Fred and their two friends. For me, A Far Piece to Canaan had a very 'Stand By Me' feel to it.

We are transported back and forth from past to present as Sam tries to come to terms with his actions in the past and make reparations in the present.

About halfway through the book, I wondered about there really being Jewish sharecroppers in Kentucky in the 1940s. It was only as I searched our more about the author that I discovered that this was truly Sam Halpern's life.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Lou pendergrast on May 28, 2013
Format: Paperback
" I bit into one of the apples and a gush of saliva and juice filled my mouth. The apple was still green, but so good. Just the way I remembered. Sometimes I felt there were only memories in my life now, the clear and solid drifting substance into a mysterious fog that rolled and shifted and entwined the past, the living and the dead, into a swirling labyrinth in which everything seemed equally distant and ethereal. My parents and siblings were gone, my Nora to cancer, my daughters married to husbands and careers, my students off to the real world, my college in search of a greater trust fund, and me to my dotage as Professor Emeritus of Comparative English Literature, which somehow rang more hollow with each passing day. I looked around at the ragged countryside. What did I want from these over-farmed hills after sixty years? I had no idea, but only days before her death, Nora had made the request that I return. I felt honor-bound to make the journey."

This excerpt gives us a keyhole into the narrators story, it sums up the journey he will take you on in his first person narrative, from his coming of age to his present, he relives and takes you back in various periods of his life.
A life that once was, on a Kentucky farm, a man, a Jew by birth, growing up with a great circle of friends, a friendship bond that would never be forgotten, and all that comes with the fun and mystery of youth, including redemption that needs to be taken account for before his final breath.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Tiffany A. Harkleroad VINE VOICE on June 17, 2013
Format: Paperback
When Samuel and his family moved onto the Kentucky farm, they did not quite know what to expect from the Appalachian people. Samuel never expected to meet, Fred, the best friend he would ever encounter, and he certainly never imagined that the boys would become embroiled in a local mystery. As an adult, Samuel returns to Kentucky to visit the old land, and to make peace with what happened all those years ago.

Sometimes, a book is so unexpectedly wonderful, you need extra time to process. Such is certainly the case with this book. A story filled with mystery, memories, and the reckless abandon of youth, this novel felt like I was listening to a tale spun by someone's grandfather. The main character of Samuel is rich and complex. We meet him as an adult, and then again as a child. Seeing him at both stages of his life, and hearing both stories unfold simultaneously, allows us to get a very clear sense of not only who he is, but also how those years on the Kentucky farm shaped his life.

There is an emphasis on religious faith in the book, with Samuel's family being a bit unusual due to being Jewish. The other boys are Christian, and at one point, Samuel attends a tent revival, but in all reality, the land is its own form of religion, and the boys adhere to it faithfully. The land is where they work, where they play, and where the biggest mysteries of their young lives unfold. The story is layered, and dense, not in a way that makes it difficult, but in a way that pulls you deeper and deeper in. This is storytelling at its best.

The only thing that cause me to struggled even the slightest with the writing is the fact that the characters often speak in the patois of Appalachian Kentucky.
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