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on March 30, 2008
I am not Jewish, yet I enjoyed Adam Mansbach's moving multi-genererational novel immensely, and so, I suspect, will you. Certainly the novel is laced with references to Jewish customs, traditions, and even dishes (noodle kugel, anyone?), and it deals partly with the complex relationships between Jews and blacks. But ultimately the book is less about being Jewish than about being human. It is about closeness and aloofness. It is about what marriage does and doesn't accomplish. It is about friends and family and how difficult it sometimes is to extricate yourself from situations caused by those nearest to you. There is sadness and tension (and a modicum of sex), but there is also humor, and a chapter in which grandfather and grandson go on a graffiti expedition is simply a howl. In the end, you will find that it doesn't matter whether the characters are Jewish or Swedish or Brazilian or Martian: They and their hopes, dreams, and disappointments will linger long in your memory.
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on May 16, 2009
The writing is brilliant. I am not Jewish, but my "domestic partner" is. The opening of this book makes a writer like me ooze with jealousy. We meet Tristan, living in the Bronx, with all the other Jewish families in the apartment building. And we just know that he will be breaking out of "tradition"! You too might be thinking "Fiddler on the Roof." Then suddenly the reader is transplanted to Prague when it was under Soviet rule to a truly remarkable story--and it seems to be a separate story--of another sort-of Jewish family. But there are connections. Then out of nowhere, it seems, comes Tris in chapter three, a teenager, who is driving his mother mad, his mother being the daughter of the Tristan (hence Tris the grandson) from the first chapter. Oh, my. Poor Linda! The end of the Jews all right. This is just the most amazing book, and the pieces fall into place. It deserves more than five stars.
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on August 12, 2008
I'm a fan of multigenerational epics. Seeing the same characters through the eyes of different generations intrigues me. But The End of the Jews doesn't quite pull this off.

At the plot's center is the bond between grandfather and grandson. It's warm and inviting in the way good buddy stories are. Their bond is based on being perceived as misfits and underachievers relative to their own generations.

The literary cliches employed by the novel are really pretty stale for how much time they get. The establishment type who champions his barely willing subordinate's career? The kid from the sticks whose life is changed by his first drink and jazz club? The journeymen musicians who travel the world but can barely scrape by?

Also, there's a middle generation barely touched upon that feels like a hole in the novel.

The several twists towards the end of the book fall a bit flat. To avoid spoiling anything, I suppose they make sense in the context of a difficult, loveless marriage. But they seemed more like grasps for salaciousness, then a conceivable step for the characters to take.

Returning to the positive side, the author clearly has a love for the lost Jewish immigrant culture of New York. Immigrant families making room in their already hard lives for the son to study instead of work. The amazement of a kid cloistered in the Bronx whose trips to Manhattan are full of wonder. It is lovingly recreated.

And the scene where the Beasty Boys aspirant DJs a Bar Mitzvah of adoring kids who see him as the coolest thing ever? Great.
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VINE VOICEon April 15, 2012
This is a book about novelists, jazz musicians, photographers and poets. But in truth it's really about the lies and sacrifices that people make. Unfortunately, one of the sacrifices is reading this book. The book is in two parts. It starts out as a fast read for the first 155 pages and slows down a bit for the next seventy five, but the second part of the book which begins on 230 and continues to 308 feels like dragging a sled across the driveway of my house.

This is supposed to be a story of three generations of one family but in reality it's only about a grandfather and a grandson. The daughter and the photographer who represent the middle generation are cardboard characters that don't have much effect on the story. Why the family is Jewish, is in itself irrelevant.

Even worse than the story is that the title is nothing if not exploitive. They could just as easily been Irish or Italian. The book could just as easily been "The end of the Roman Catholics" as the "End of the Jews". Tristan and his wife Amalia could just as easily have been part of the Noel Coward, F Scott Fitzgerald crowd of the thirties as they were of the thirties CCNY crowd.
Lastly, there is no END here. Tristan and Amalia go on the same way, Tris and Nina go off on a fling that you sense won't change anything. It's not an end as so much as a small pause, and then without much thinking, goes on its' way.

Zeb Kantrowitz
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on January 17, 2009
I thought the title was especially intriguing, but after I have read the book, not sure that it is especially appropriate. The book is more about family relationships and the price one pays for one's art regardless of ethic or religious identity. I loved the first chapter-- the historical one. Thought the second chapter was interesting (Czech mother and daughter) but could see no relationship to the first, and almost quit with the third chapter (graffiti artists). However, I stuck with it and I'm glad I did.

Some of the events in the book I find a bit of a stretch but overall it fits together pretty well considering the diverse individuals coming together. I'm not an "artist" and I'm not Jewish, but could certainly relate to some of the marital struggles. Good to know that those are universal. Life, and certainly marriage, isn't easy so you might as well savor the good times when they appear and just work to weather the bad when those are around.
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on August 18, 2009
This is not a stereotypical immigrant novel that has been done and over-done. Mansbach provides us with some unforgettable characters, who stay with us long after the final page is read.

Dealing with the complexities between the black and Jewish communities is never going to be easy and the author provides an excellent and fascinating insight.

Above all, I have learned to look at spray-painted graffiti in a whole new way - and wonder if there is a can-carrying grandfather still out there.
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on August 17, 2008
The End of the Jews blew me away. It's stunning in its emotional honesty, in a way that reminded me of James Baldwin's masterpiece Another Country. It's a book that tackles big issues, like race and identity, but through a small lens: the life of one family over several generations. Mansbach gives us full characters whose struggles are vivid, whose victories and defeats feel real. The language is beautiful, too.
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on August 4, 2008
Very interesting concept in this book. Using it for a book club.
shipped timely and in great condition.
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on September 3, 2008
The first few chapters of this creatively written novel are like short stories with no connectivity to each other. They read well and have very challenging situations which capture the reader's imagination. However, once the author attempts to go between characters and time the novel becomes annoying and difficult to either believe that such characters exist but that such situations so one dimensional can be the payoff for the reader to endure to continue with the narrative.

If the author had concentrated on the beginning characters and developed them in a rational sequence rather than throwing new characters in whenever he wanted to distort the overall premise of the book, it would have been much more satisfying. Also, the title is a meaningless throw away to perhaps entice the reader into thinking something profound is being detailed.

My advise is to ditch the book after the first few chapters and find something much more substantive than this misfiring novel.
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on February 5, 2016
Adam Mansbach's recent horror action thrillers betrayed a literary skills and credentials, but this book really brought home just how well the man can write. And talk about versatility, this one is miles away from Dead Run and Devil's Bag Man in almost every possible way, except for quality. The End of Jews is an exploration of several generations of a New York (Jewish, obviously) family and their wide circle of friends, lovers and acquaintances. Its timeline interweaving narrative is sprawling, ambitious and competent, putting one in mind of such generational epics as Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, although not quite as amazing. It covers a huge variety of subjects and being Jewish is only one of them. It deals heavily with cultural and ethnic identity, racial politics, authenticity, talent, love and family...which is of course quite a generic description, but I'm never quite sure how much specificity a review requires. At the heart of the story are two Tristans, grandfather and grandson, both authors of various success, and how their chosen vocation has shaped and affected their lives and lives of those near them. Because this novel is such an onion, some layers are more interesting than others, To me the highlight was the early chapters of Nina's life. Some parts I thought dragged on a tad. Here's the thing, though...this isn't a perfectly even narrative, some of it dealt with things I don't care very much about (graffiti, jazz, Adam Mansbach is hip. Very hip. And he lets you know it.), most of the characters I honestly didn't like very much and didn't care for their choices...and yet the fact that despite all that Mansbach created such a compelling story impressed me tremendously. It isn't an easy or a light read, but it's intelligent, challenging and good, really good. I can only imagine how magnetic it would have been with some less frustrating characters. Enjoyable, albeit in a very particular way.
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