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The Gift of Asher Lev Paperback – September 10, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his first novel in five years, Potok brings back the Hasidic artist hero of My Name Is Asher Lev . Now living in France, Asher is deeply disturbed by the reviews of his latest show, which criticize his paintings as facile self-imitation. When he learns of the death of his favorite uncle, he returns to Brooklyn with his family for a funeral reunion with fellow Ladover Hasids. In America, Asher is assailed by memories and surprises: his uncle had amassed important artworks, and Asher is made responsible for the collection. He also faces a crisis in his own work, and yet another dilemma when he realizes that his son Avrumel has a chance to inherit the mantle of the Ladover rabbi if the boy remains in Brooklyn under the the sect leader's special tutelage. Asher understands that because the religious community looks upon his art as the work of the devil, his professional survival depends on his remaining geographically outside of the world in which he was raised. Potok again provides an instructive look at the power of Hasidism, building dramatic tension in the pull between the sacred and the profane. The plot is bogged down by too many details of art techniques and wooden dialogue, however, and the story often lumbers earnestly on the way to its by-no-means-foregone conclusion. 75,000 first printing; BOMC alternate.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

When Asher Lev, an internationally famous painter, returns from exile in France to his native Brooklyn to attend his uncle's funeral, he begins a struggle with his own destiny. His son and daughter learn to know their grandparents, and his wife develops a loving relationship with his mother. But Asher knows he cannot remain in America, for his devotion to his family and his religious beliefs are pitted against his artistic survival. Potok is a master of words. His descriptive images of Jewish life and Lev's emotional turmoil are to be savored. However, his frequent references to events in his previous novels are often confusing and distracting. Any library containing Potok's works needs his latest effort to complete the collection, but most YAs will find this story too bland to hold their attention. --Katherine Fitch, Jefferson Sci-Tech, Alexandria, VA
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Fawcett Books; Reprint edition (September 10, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0449001156
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449001158
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #112,619 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Tom Hinkle on February 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
Before I read this book, having read its superlative predecessor "My Name is Asher Lev", I would have said that the title refers to Asher Lev's incredible artistic talent. After finishing the book, I realized it was referring to something much more precious, more along the lines of the gift Abraham was asked to sacrifice on the altar. As a grown Asher revisits Brooklyn with his family on the occasion of the death of his uncle, he not only has to confront his past, but his present and future as well. Not only his future, in fact, but the future of the entire Jewish sect in which he was raised. The conflict between his art and his religion is brought into a much sharper, more painful inner battle than even displayed in the first book.
This sequel is less straightforward than the first novel. There are more flashbacks, hallucinations (or are they?), riddles, and supernatural occurrences here. Sometimes the book seems to wander a little bit, just like Asher wandered the streets of Paris for awhile. It is not as riveting from beginning to end as the first book was, and the ending is a little more inconclusive, which is why I gave it four stars instead of five. It never confirms whether Asher's suspicions are correct or not. Which means, of course, that I am eagerly awaiting a (hopeful) follow-up to this book and a satisfying conclusion to the Asher Lev saga.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 8, 1999
Format: Paperback
I read this book transfixed, waiting for the resolution of the intense situation, but in the last ten or twenty pages, nothing happened, and suddenly it was over! I scratched my head, and went back to see if I missed something. I ended up reading the last 50 pages, and sure enough, I did miss something! The resolution was right there, in plain sight, but between the lines. And quite a resolution, too. It was like what the Great Rebbe said from his balcony at the beginning of the book, that sometimes the truth is too difficult to approach directly, and must be approached in riddles to prepare the seeker for the answer. A hard act for a writer to pull off, but I've been haunted ever since. Probably not for everybody.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Charents on June 6, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
In my review of Chaim Potok's My Name is Asher Lev, I admitted that I was reluctant to read the sequel out of fear that it could not be as satisfying. My fear was unfounded. The Gift of Asher Lev is a wonderful novel and those who enjoyed My Name is Asher Lev will be happy to find Asher twenty years later with a wife and two children living, if not happily, at least contentedly in southern France. That is until page 6. Coming off a successful but poorly reviewed art show in Paris, Asher learns that his uncle has died and takes his family with him back to Brooklyn for the first time.

Unlike the first Asher Lev novel, where Asher was shunned by the leaders of his Hasidic Jewish community because of his controversial painting, the tension in The Gift of Asher Lev revolves around the Ladovers wanting him - or part of him - back. Asher's parents get to know his wife and children, and everyone except our hero is happy with this arrangement. Asher, however, has trouble exorcising his old demons: he fears another anonymous death threat, he can't find the inspiration to paint, and he just doesn't feel comfortable in Brooklyn anymore. Asher's father still does not understand him or his art, but anger and frustration have subsided to a sort of resigned sadness.

The Gift of Asher Lev introduces the importance of riddles in Hasidism, which seems as much a suspense-building technique by Potok as a true Jewish tradition. Frustratingly, Potok does not give answers to some of the riddles the characters evoke. But the biggest riddle of all - the heart of the story - is rather clear early on, making the book more readable rather than less suspenseful. Though he puts them off throughout most of the novel, Asher ultimately has some important choices to make.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A. Hogan VINE VOICE on February 2, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Twenty years have passed for asher lev, last seen dispalying waht sounded like a version of Marc chagalls white crucifixion to a stunned and mortified family. He is, as this novel opens, a very successful artist living in France. When his beloved uncle dies, he ends his exile and returns to Brookly, to the chasidic community he thought h had left behind,to small storefront shuls and men in dark hats and coats,to that place deep inside himself which he could never leave. The travles from Willaimsburgh to Monticello, Ny{the catskills}, and the intorduction of Lev's young son are a lovely narrative touch. The Rebbe,based it would seem on the late Lubavitch rebbe of Blessed memory,is brilliantly,sympathetically drawn. he comes off as a holy,profound man of deep compassion and mystical understanding. Lev has grown, also, and the story of these tow, brilliant men is the key to the novel. A wonderful,beautifully plotted story of an amazing group of people.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By C. E Sutter on May 6, 2003
Format: Paperback
Of all the Chaim Potok books I've read, (the last being about 8 years ago) this one has stayed with me the most, perhaps because it perplexed me at the time. Probably most people will prefer the first Asher Lev book, with its clearer narrative and dramatic plot. It covers the painful conflict between a traumatized community's survival and personal creativity so well it seems unnecessary to bring it up again. But to me it was merely the prequel for this second book.
Asher struggles to keep his son from being taken from him by the same Chasidic community that had banished him for his artistic intensity. I had the strange experience of being drawn into the books central conflict, only to reach the end realizing that a conclusion had been reached that I was entirely unaware of!
So I reread most of the book-- I had to go back very far to pick up the threads I missed-- and noticed an early scene in which the great Rebbe, standing from the balcony overlooking the Ladover community he leads, speaking about the key issue of who his successor shall be-- he has no children to follow him. He speaks in nonsense, something about Ones and Threes, and then explains that when a truth is difficult to bear, it is better to be pesented in riddles than more straightforwardly. So it was with this book, and for me it was one hell of a trick.
On the surface, nothing really happens. Asher mopes around Brooklyn and Paris broodingly, draws sketches of passing moments, talks to ghosts of Picasso and his own mentor, Jacob Kahn, and chooses the fate of himself and his son so subtly that it appears to be nothing at all. But it was frightening and wonderful when I finally got what he did: he gave his community the gift of Asher Lev.
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