This is a very good book, like most of Potok's other works, it is centered around a Jewish adolescent,(orthodox, of course) coming of age and learning how to interact with his parents.
This book was, in some ways, a departure from Potok's earlier works about Hasidism. This takes place before THE CHOSEN, and MY NAME IS ASHER LEV, and has barely any mention of the "pious ones", save for the character's father voicing his distaste for them.
This is the story of every typical jewish kid in NYC in the between-war-years, (with the exception of the constant illness this caracter is afflicted with) and for that, it is very successful.
Reading this, for me, was invaluable in doing genealogy research on my family. This helped me get in the "mindset of the time". My family, like the family of the main character, had come over, had children, and then watched their relatives get killed in Europe, and this gave me a very good sense of what it was like, from the American viewpoint.
It showed how the Americanized Jews dealt with the problems in Palestine, how Jews and gentiles interacted, all the while with Henry Ford and Father Couglin taking up arms against them [the Jews]. It also showed how they responded to the early Nazism in 1930s Germany, and then what happened when they learned the awful truth.
Like most of Potok's main characters, this one is involved in Torah and Talmudic study, so non-jews and secular ones, BEWARE: YOU MIGHT HAVE TO LOOK SOMETHING UP! (oh, the horror!)
But, despite whatever minor issues one might have with this book, it succeeds in the end, and it is a very compelling story.