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The Chosen Mass Market Paperback – April 12, 1987
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The Amazon Book Review
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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.)
From the Inside Flap
who finds it is finding a jewel. Its themes are profound and universal."
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
It is the now-classic story of two fathers and two sons and the pressures on all of them to pursue the religion they share in the way that is best suited to each. And as the boys grow into young men, they discover in the other a lost spiritual brother, and a link to an unexplored world that neither had ever considered before. In effect, they exchange places, and find the peace that neither will ever retreat from again....
Top customer reviews
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It might seem tiresome to add a review to the many already published on Amazon, which well present the contents of this book as well as its merits and problems. But, having reread the book after nearly 40 years, I was struck by one point which did not catch my attention earlier.
On pp. 284-5 Potok states "...it is important to know of pain...It destroys our self-pride, our arrogance, our indifference toward others...of all people a tsaddik especially must know of pain. A tsaddik must know how to suffer for his people...He must take their pain from them and carry it on his own shoulders. He must carry it always. He must grow old before his years. He must cry, in his heart he must always cry. Even when he dances and sings, he must cry for the sufferings of his people."
If we substitute the term "global leaders, spiritual as well as political" (as discussed in my recent book) for the Jewish term "tsaddik" then an important but usually ignored truth confronts us -- adding to the interest of the book as a whole.
Professor Yehezkel Dror
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
This edition adds reviews and introductions to the book that express my feelings more completely than this short piece. This is a masterpiece which deserves the praise and honors it has received since 1967. I would suggest the book for any intelligent person of any faith.
Let me now recognize that there are some who do not like the book. That is their loss.
The book is a complex piece about choosing your path in life. The background of two jewish boys who are true friends who find each other then grow apart and reconcile is a timeless story for everybody. It is so beautifully expressed. Then add the relationship with fathers and expectations. I cannot praise it highly enough. Read the book. Then see Robby Benson's Danny Saunders. You will be glad you did.
The book taught me so much about Judaism, spirituality and love. I cried at the end. I am part Jewish and brought up in the very neighborhood Chaim Potok talks about. I recognized the places, especially the library that can only be the Brooklyn Public at Grand Army Plaza. I too walked under those arches decades after and yet with the author and it remains a treasured memory. Even the hospital he and his father stayed in,could be the one where I gave birth to my second son, Maimonides Hospital.
Yet this book is about more than memories or religion. It explains life in a simple and profound way. It talked about a people who suffered and held on to tradition in order to survive. But like eating Levy's bread or a bagel, you don't have to be Jewish to benefit from the beauty. It is a universal story. It's about an enduring friendship, and most of all , the love of two fathers and their sons. I wish I could have met the author because to write such a book, he had to have been a wonderful teacher, writer and human being. I am so grateful I found this diamond and now want to read everything he wrote. I did this with DH Laurence when I saw an obscure play the author wrote. I am transported and transformed by reading this book. And that's is what the best books can do. "The Chosen" will be one of the few books I keep on my bookshelf for life. Aloha
I suspect that many of the one-star reviews were written by folks who read no farther than this; I must admit I came close to quitting at this point and giving it one star, but fortunately I persisted, and soon thereafter the boredom ceased, and I could hardly put the book down after that.
Several reviewers have commented on Rabbi Saunders' silent treatment of Danny, which may, in this case, have accomplished its purpose of developing compassion. However, most children develop compassion as they grow up, without the silent treatment, which was cruel, and was uncomfortably close to the parenting style that, according to what I have read*, has been found to be common to most serial killers such as Ted Bundy. The ending could easily have been tragic, and it is not exactly happy, but life will go on, and will probably be bearable. Reuven will probably get married eventually, and maybe Danny will, too.
There are some surprises which I won't spoil. This is not a book for children; you need the life experience of growing up to adulthood to fully understand and appreciate it. I doubt that I was ready for it before age 35. But at 77, I am very glad that I read it.
* SeeThe Stranger Beside Me, by Ann Rule.
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