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The Chosen Mass Market Paperback – April 12, 1987
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Few stories offer more warmth, wisdom, or generosity than this tale of two boys, their fathers, their friendship, and the chaotic times in which they live. Though on the surface it explores religious faith--the intellectually committed as well as the passionately observant--the struggles addressed in The Chosen are familiar to families of all faiths and in all nations.
In 1940s Brooklyn, New York, an accident throws Reuven Malther and Danny Saunders together. Despite their differences (Reuven is a Modern Orthodox Jew with an intellectual, Zionist father; Danny is the brilliant son and rightful heir to a Hasidic rebbe), the young men form a deep, if unlikely, friendship. Together they negotiate adolescence, family conflicts, the crisis of faith engendered when Holocaust stories begin to emerge in the U.S., loss, love, and the journey to adulthood. The intellectual and spiritual clashes between fathers, between each son and his own father, and between the two young men, provide a unique backdrop for this exploration of fathers, sons, faith, loyalty, and, ultimately, the power of love. (This is not a conventional children's book, although it will move any wise child age 12 or older, and often appears on summer reading lists for high school students.)
“Anyone who finds The Chosen is finding a jewel. Its themes are profound and universal.... It will stay on our bookshelves and be read again.” (The Wall Street Journal)
“The Chosen is one of the best novels I have read in the last decade. The author asks and provides unique and original answers to the nature of parental love, infuses his novel with a quiet and compelling wisdom, and brings alive a period and neighborhood with rare style.” (Los Angeles Times)
“Perceptive, touching, exquisite, and unusual.... This is a most profound novel: Chaim Potok is a gifted writer.” (The Boston Sunday Herald)
“It makes you want to buttonhole strangers in the street to be sure they know it’s around.... It revives my sometimes fading belief in humanity. Works of this caliber should be occasion for singing in the streets and shouting from the rooftops.” (Chicago Tribune)
“So entertaining, so full of love and compassion that readers of all persuasions will take it to their hearts. Mr. Potok is writing about two fathers and their sons... in a way that will ring just as true at Iowa as in Brooklyn.” (Publishers Weekly)
“The Chosen is a compelling, absorbing book. It offers deep, sympathetic insight into the variety and profundity of Jewish tradition and heritage. It’s interesting as social commentary and as, simply, story. It’s a joy to read for its splendid, singing prose style as much as for its message.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
“We rejoice, and even weep a little.... Long afterward it remains in the mind and delights.” (The New York Times Book Review)
“It is a simple, almost meager story... yet the warmth and pathos of the dealings between fathers and sons and the understated odyssey from boyhood to manhood give the book a range that makes it worth anybody’s reading.” (The Christian Science Monitor)
“A fine, moving, gratifying book.” (Saturday Review)
“Sensitively written and heartwarming.” (Library Journal)
“A coming of age classic.” (The Boston Globe) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The story is primarilly about two boys, Reuven and Danny who meet one day in a softball game. Danny is a Hassidic Jew and Reuven is merely Orthodox. Danny's initial impression is one of disdain towards Reuven as he is unable to relate to people who are not on his religious level at first impression. An accident on the ball field brings them together and eventually they begin a friendship. It grows deeper when both their fathers are drawn into each others worlds. It is indeed very interesting how each father raises his son so diffrently.
The backdrops of the hospital, World War II, the surrender of the Nazis, The Zionist Movement, and the eventual statehood of Israel effect the two worlds of Danny and Reuven. There is a period of time when the Zionist movement causes Danny and Reuven to put their friendship on hold. However, in time they return to nurture each other.
This is not a quick read by any means as anyone with a soul with be enamored by the details of this fine novel. Practically each page offers descriptive information about critical steps that Danny and Reuven take in their critical years to discovering themselves. Even both fathers learn something in the end. This is a story which will have you thinking and analyzing many many aspects of the lives of Danny and Reuven and I sincerely hope more teenagers and college students read this book and develop a greater acceptance for peers who may be a little different from themselves.
The book explores the relationship between two deeply religious boys from profoundly different traditions within that religion who are accidentally -- divinely, really -- brought together. The development of both boys' spirituality starts with lessons from their fathers and deepens with lessons from each other.
The Chosen takes place in World War II America. I was already familiar with many of the classic accounts of Holocaust survivors (Anne Frank, Elie Wiesel, and others.) This book richly filled a gap in that understanding by presenting a fully formed first person account, though ficitious, of the wrenching experience of American Jews who helplessly learned of the horror from here.
The book also offers thorough background information (which will have to be supplemented by further reading) about Jewish history, both cultural and religious. The author patiently explains terms presumably unfamiliar to the general reader and then trusts the reader to turn back if, during the course of reading the novel, the terms are momentarily forgotten. Those reviewers who said that Potok left the reader unaided were simply not paying close attention.
Beyond its fascinating historical and religious perspectives, this book's elegant craftsmanship and universal themes will move anyone, regardless of background. Potok's gift for writing regional American dialogue is similar to that of Twain and Steinbeck. Thematically, especially moving to me was the way in which the fathers' mostly wordless love and support for their sons manifested itself in the friends' often wordless love and support for each other. It is significant in this regard that the fathers never meet in the novel, even as they separately express a conflicted admiration for each other when each speaks to one or both boys. When both boys choose career paths their fathers had not expected, Potok allows the reader to share all four characters' realization that it is fulfilling the expectations of God, the Father that ultimately matters most.
I will share an excerpt of this extraordinary book with the young people on our trip. And when we reach New York, my hometown, I'm giving my copy to my Dad.
Chaim Potok has become one of my favorite authors. This is the third book of his that I have read this year, and, as a Christian, his novels give me great insight into modern day Judaism. His books are not only informative, but brilliant, heartbreaking, and compassionate. Everyone with any kind of religious bent at all, or even the non-religious, should read his work. I'll guarantee that you will be moved.
There are several levels or spheres of fantasy in the book, one is the near absence of women characters, who when they occur, merely fill in the gap for someone to cry at the right time, etc. Another level of fantasy (relative to my own life) is the intense level of multi-language study of the main characters, even in adolescence -- my academic and intellectual achievement was markedly delayed, so I admire the progress of the main characters. Another sphere of fantasy is the absence of any concern about money for anything -- wish my life was that easy. There is a fantasy of being surrounded by a cast of chronically, and often acutely, ill people, family and strangers -- the author gives the reader so many things to worry about, and does a good job of that. The author is trying to force feed our souls, as the father-figures force feed their sons.