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The Family Markowitz Hardcover – September, 1996


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The stories in this collection are so linked and consistent, the book is almost a novel. It tells the comic and endearing history of a family of archetypal American Jews. Rose, the finicky and irrational Jewish mother, becomes increasingly dependent on Percodan and on her two sons, Ed, a hard-headed academic, and Henry, an arty dilettante. Ed's writer wife Sara suffers through teaching creative writing at the local Jewish Community Center. Ed painfully endures an interfaith weekend with crushingly banal Christian ecumenists, even though both he and Sara are completely irreligious. Meanwhile their daughter Miriam alarms them by rediscovering Judaism. Goodman, whose stories appear regularly in the New Yorker, delights the reader with recognition of the funny in the familiar.

From Publishers Weekly

Goodman's voice is fresh and distinctive as she limns a wry, funny, touching portrait of an American Jewish family in a brilliantly observed, lovingly rendered novel composed of interlocking stories. Rose Markowitz, stubborn, outspoken, kvetching, a survivor and an individualist whose youth was spent in Vienna and London during WWII, is 73, living with her second husband in Manhattan, when we first meet her. He dies, and for most of the book, Rose, now in her 80s, copes with lonely widowhood in Venice, Calif., where her bachelor son, Henry, an art gallery manager, lures her to live. But soon he splits for Oxford, England, to become an Anglophile scholar and aesthete. Rose's other son, Ed, a Georgetown University historian of the Middle East and media pundit on terrorism, is, in Henry's eyes, a rank apologist for the PLO. Sarah, Ed's novelist/poet wife, is a frustrated fame-seeker, distracted from her writing by having to raise four children. Their daughter Miriam, a Harvard Med student, surprises her secular, liberal parents by embracing Orthodox ritual observance. Goodman (Total Immersion), who has published sections of this work in the New Yorker and Commentary, combines delicious comic set pieces with deeper meditations and conversations on Jewish identity, God, frazzled relationships and the breakdown of family life.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 262 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux (T); 1st edition (September 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374153213
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374153212
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,549,325 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I was born in Brooklyn in 1967, but grew up in Honolulu where I got to run around barefoot. I lived in Hawaii until I flew back east for college. I attended Harvard, where I stepped in my first slush puddle. Now I have waterproof boots because I live in Cambridge, Mass, with my family. Don't get me started on the winters here, and the snow days! When I'm not writing, I spend most of my time driving my four kids around, reading, thinking about getting some exercise (I like to swim), wondering what we should have for dinner, and occasionally indulging in some therapeutic vacuuming. Oh, and I keep a blog of my thoughts on the writing process, the books I'm reading and the literary life. You can find me at www.allegragoodman.com or join me on Facebook.

Customer Reviews

The characters are irritating and even boring.
West Side Reader
No one really listens, and no one really hears, but in the end everyone seems to understand perfectly.
R. Peterson
The first and second halves of the book don't seem to coherently fit together.
Leigh Serrie

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By R. Peterson on August 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
Oy vey, "The Family Markowitz" is what every WASP imagines every Jewish family is really like. And perhaps it is what every Jewish family might read and shake their heads at - for the truth captured within. I don't know. I do know that I alternately grinned and groaned with every guilt trip, every piece of cognitive dissonance, every whine, and every solution. Goodman writes a good story, and one that seems entirely plausible and accurate in its dialogues, descriptions, and hang-ups. The reader learns all about Mama Rose, her two sons, Ed and Henry, their wives, and Ed's children who range in type from "born again orthodox Judaism" to "Did I hear you say Avi's girlfriend isn't Jewish?". They deal with their own minds and souls while they combat and juggle the anguish of their family members. No one really listens, and no one really hears, but in the end everyone seems to understand perfectly. A fun read, and for someone who appreciates the Jewish-American world - a hilarious open window on the community as it is portrayed.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 23, 1998
Format: Hardcover
If you've ever been to a family reunion, you can certainly relate to this book. The author gives each character a chapter of his/her own -- at least one, and one comes away understanding that every family, every life has a little craziness in it. Very warm and even inspiring.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By D. Sloan on October 25, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Everyone finds someone to root for and someone to scorn in this delicious collage. The author obviously had strong and tender attachment to each of her characters, and you will too. This book should be used in English classes to teach character development.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
In a series of interwoven stories covering approximately fifteen years in the life of a large family, the author conveys the difficulty and comedy in family relationships. The members of the family include a demanding and childlike aging grandmother, an overly-adult granddaughter, and several members of the middle generation who are still struggling to come to terms with their own identities. Because the chapters differ in central character and focus, the reader is never bored, and there is always a high level of humor shining through the rather cerebral plot. One of the best novels I have read in years. Don't miss it.
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By Patti on April 28, 2010
Format: Paperback
As you might guess, this is a Jewish family saga, but, while I was reading it, I didn't realize that it's apparently intended as a tightly woven collection of stores. Although I think it was supposed to be funny, I was certainly glad that Rose Markowitz was not my mother. She imposes herself on her grown sons, Ed and Henry, and is jealous of her daughter-in-law's mother, who is equally annoying and overbearing. When Ed and Sarah's daughter Miriam's wedding invitation list more than doubles because her grandmothers insist on inviting all their old friends, I became totally exasperated. I guess disciplining of unruly grandparents is a lost cause and not necessarily beneficial to family harmony. Rose has selective amnesia, remembering what she wants to remember, from her childhood, and also more recent items, such as the religious affiliation of Henry's future bride, Susan. There is one really hilarious section of the book, however. Ed, an academic authority on the Middle East and terrorism, attends a conference in an earth-sheltered compound in California that turns out to be something like an AA meeting. When Ed is called on to tell his personal story, his rant against the structure of the conference, or lack thereof, is priceless.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
When I first started to read this book I wasn't sure if I was going to like it or even finish it. I had already read Ms Goodman's novels, KAATERSKILL FALLS and PARADISE PARK, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. I just wasn't sure if this would be more of the same ... the same characters...the same issues. ...But I stuck with it because I enjoy her writing so much and I was pleasantly surprised!
THE FAMILY MARKOWITZ is a compilation of short stories describing different members of this complex family. From Rose, the family matriarch, to her sons, Henry and Ed, her daughters-in-law and her grandchildren, these stories span a period of about 15 years and delve into issues that face many families - religion, intermarriage, drug addiction, sibling rivalry, aging parents, etc. I didn't love all the characters but I don't think you were supposed to - they are "real" people, created so well by an author whose true talent lies in her masterful characteriztion as well as with her literary ability.
I'd like to pick up a copy of her first collection of stories, TOTAL IMMERSION, next!
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By C. Slatzer on March 16, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I kept waiting for a plot to evolve. Thought it stereotyped a typical Jewish family which I didn't like. It was very funny though and provided light reading.
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Format: Paperback
The Family Markowitz by Allega Goodman is a "family" novel with a Jewish theme, meant, I suppose, to be modeled after such novels as The Brothers Ashkenazi and The Family Moskat.

Goodman does a great deal of work in a short space with at least six main characters. Sometimes, the characterization is a bit thin (the brother Henry); in other places, laid on a bit strong (the daughter Miriam). We get the obligatory Great American Seder, with a family at odds with each other over the meaning of the rite, as well as among themselves. It borders on cliche, but does not quite cross the boundary.

In the end, we get an accomplished novel not only about the Jewish predicament in American, but about people struggling with modern problems and struggles.
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