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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Schocken; Reprint edition (August 28, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805242864
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805242867
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #433,775 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

On a precarious frame--three men contending for the love of one resolutely perplexing woman--Meir Shalev arrays a tale so bittersweet and lyrical that it's nearly possible to overlook a stunning bit of sleight of hand: in an unabashed love story, the romance becomes tangential. For The Loves of Judith is, ultimately, an hommage to love itself--its elusiveness, its pain, and, above all, its endurance.

During the pause between world wars, Judith, the woman in question, arrives in a small Palestinian village to tend house for Moshe Rabinovitch, a widowed farmer. Confused by her past waywardness, Judith chooses to live in Moshe's cowshed, cries at night for the daughter she's lost, and finds herself adored not only by the stoically formidable Moshe but also by a randy and conniving cattle dealer named Globerman and the garrulous canary breeder Jacob Sheinfeld. "Man makes plans and God laughs," Globerman explains, and as the three men clumsily scheme to win Judith's love, she remains imperturbable, the still point at the center of their longings. Most desperate of all is Sheinfeld, who cares little that his unconcealed love has made him a fool before the entire village. He seeks only "the eternal picture of love," and finds consolation in a life seasoned with consuming desire.

The story is resolved slowly by Judith's son Zayde, who may be the child of any of the three men--or, remarkably, all three. And so the men raise him, care for him, love him. Over several years, Jacob discloses very nearly all the details of Judith's world to Zayde. "What did you think, that I told you everything?" Jacob finally asks. Like love itself, the story fulfills because it has the grace not to overwhelm. --Ben Guterson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

"A mensh trakht un Gott lakht." This Yiddish expression meaning "man plans and God laughs" appears more than once in Shalev's appealing third novel (after Esau), in which mythic storytelling lucidly elaborates on the workings of love and fate. Zayde, the narrator, grows up in Israel's Jezreel Valley in the 1940s and '50s, confused but protected by a name that signifies "grandfather." His mother, Judith, reasons that if "the Angel of Death comes and sees a little boy named Zayde (Grandfather), he understands right away that there's a mistake here and he goes to someplace else." But while Judith's attempt to trick Fate saves the life of her illegitimate son many times, it helps lead to her own demise. Her story, and those of the three men who love her, each claiming Zayde as his son, are revealed during four ornate meals prepared for Zayde by one of his "fathers," Jacob Sheinfeld. Twelve-year-old Zayde first visits Jacob almost two years after his mother's death. He returns three times over the next 29 years to let his memories intertwine with Jacob's. The tales of those who have loved Judith are epic. Oxlike Moshe Rabinovitch, briefly married to Judith after the death of his wife, still searches for his blonde braid cut off at adolescence and hidden by his mother. Sheinfeld is taught to dance, cook and sew in preparation for a wedding Fate cannot destroy (but does). Only Globerman, Zayde's third "father," a shrewd cattle dealer, is earthbound, but the unique legacies all three fathers leave their shared son seal the unwieldy family's destiny. Told in a euphonic voice and employing the magic conventions of a fairytale, this is a heartwarming narrative agleam with moments of plangent sadness, rueful humor and compassionate insight.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Beautifully written and great stories.
ellen bonynge
The book takes place over several decades, weaving in and out of time as each person's history is revealed.
"skc_33"
Shalev is a master story teller with a poetic inclination.
Judith van Praag

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By "skc_33" on December 27, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I have a great love for Jewish literature and culture, and this book reinforces the beauty of each of those things through Shalev's marvelous storytelling. Each one of the characters is uniquely and vividly drawn, from jealous Aunt Bathsheba to mournful Moshe to cold and beautiful Rebecca. The book takes place over several decades, weaving in and out of time as each person's history is revealed. As you begin the book, you might think that "The Loves of Judith" only refers to Zayde's three fathers, but you soon find that even Zayde himself and Naomi, his adopted sister, are defined by their love for this mysterious woman.
The story is told primarily through the memories of Zayde, Judith's son, and Jacob, one of Judith's suitors. Each of the four sections of the book circles around a meal which Jacob prepares for Zayde. As Zayde savors the food Jacob prepares, he also savors the memories of his mother that Jacob shares with him. Through their remembrances, we learn that Judith is a woman who defies the common practices of the time period, remaining true only to herself and rejecting her suitors' attempts to possess and define her. Every main character's path is set by Judith's actions, and each comes to love her for a different reason.
"The Loves of Judith" explores the ways in which love affects individuals, families and even entire villages. Love brings some characters together and tears some apart, predicts their destinies and lingers with them until their deaths.
The story is like a good meal: flavorful, unpredictable, and completely satisfying. Trust me, you'll want to help yourself to this novel again and again.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By M. T. Guzman on September 9, 2001
Format: Hardcover
In post World War II Palestine, Judith is dead and her son Zayde inherits something from each of his three fathers. Moshe, the first of the three fathers, hires Judith to care for his two children when his own wife dies in a tragic accident. Globerman, the cattle dealer and the second of the three fathers , falls in love with Judith when he comes to do business with Moshe. Sheinfeld, a canary breeder and the third father, believes he has a relationship with Judith when, in fact, he doesn't. Who the fathers are and the extent of their relationships to Judith and Zayde are revealed as the story is told.
Shalev is most magnificent when he describes the pioneers of Israel as individual characters. They are colorful, quirky, and strong. Again in this book, the author uses the splendor of animals and nature to create a rich, complex story. It may seem confusing at the onset, but all pieces fall into place in the end and the vivid imagery lingers long after the book is closed.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Judith van Praag on October 8, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Meir Shalev's work has been called wordy, but I beg for more. Shalev paints a world which is best described as having a literary resemblance with paintings by Chagall. Colorful images tumble across a stage set with minute imagination. Shalev's eye for detail is delicious. A startling story of love and loss unfolds gracefully, as the author introduces the characters with their idiosyncracies, their shortcomings and strengths. The narrator, Judith's son, is an old man looking back at his life. His tale is fresh, as though he has finally put the puzzle pieces together. Allegedly the son of three possible fathers, he shares insights concerning his creation and the people involved; sharing and witholding information, offering bits and pieces, until all that has happend in his life makes sense. As far as such is possible anyway. By letting his narrator come to terms with the ingredients of his existence, the author's comment on life seems to be that it is fantastic, outragious and far from sensible. Shalev is a master story teller with a poetic inclination. His bizar characters are larger than life as we know it and yet they are believable and in the end the reader may recognize universal and even individual truths about loss, love and if not recovery and survival than at least continuation. Meir Shalev's work is a celebration of life and should be on everyone's list.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By bonnie mitchell on January 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The narrator of this marvelous novel has three different fathers. There is no rankle nor fuss here, this is just the way things are. With characters both real and unreal and plots that vibrate with expectancy, the tale is as mystical and luminous as the land, Israel, from which it sprang. Hurrah to the author for such a fine piece of writing.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By ellen bonynge on July 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I won't add to the description of the book, I just want to add my praise. This is the 3rd novel I have read of Shalev's and he is a great Israeli writer. Up there with Yehoshua who I also enjoy and respect tremendously. Try Shalev's other books, Blue Mountain and Esau, and Yehoshua too - especially Mr. Mani, the Late Divorce and the Lovers! Beautifully written and great stories.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Eric Maroney on April 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Man Plans, and God Laughs, is the frequent Yiddish refrain in Meir Shalev's sprawling novel The Loves of Judith (an unfortunate title... the original Hebrew is Ke-yamim ahadim, But a Few Days, from Genesis 29:20: "And Jacob worked for Rachel seven years, and they seemed to him but a few days").

The original title reveals a great deal of the central motivation of this novel. It is a long explication of the nature of love; the characters constantly wrangle over the meaning of love, its place in our lives, how it should be expressed, found and kept.

In the end, Shalev has done something exceptional here. He has created a work of fiction that keeps an opened ended sense of the mystery of love, even as it explores its every nuance.
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