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Comment: Publisher: ALGONQUIN BOOKS
Date of Publication: 2010
Binding: paperback
Edition: FIRST EDITION
Condition: VG
Description: 9781565126190 Advance Reading Copy COVER CREASE
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The Frozen Rabbi Paperback – 2010

3.3 out of 5 stars 83 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: ALGONQUIN BOOKS; First Edition edition (2010)
  • ISBN-10: 156512619X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565126190
  • ASIN: B004WJQ75C
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,735,772 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Hard to rate this book because at least 2/3 of it was 6 stars, the other 1/3 didn't hold me fast. I had never read Steve Stern before and now I have put all his novels on inter-library loan. He is brilliant--brillliiiiant. His writing is crisp, intelligent, hilariously funny, original, and zany, too. My library places this novel in the fantasy category. I think of fantasy as vampires, zombies, aliens and all that totally stupid stuff that is the current rage--when will it be over I ask the universe every night.

The frozen rabbi himself dates from the 18th century. For 300 years he has been sealed in ice and transported from one eastern European location to the next until he makes the voyage to the Lower East Side and then on to Memphis, Tennessee. The book has alternating chapters--the historical periods of several centuries, the most pages given to the period of 1880 or so to 1920s, and contemporary times when the rebbe comes back to life and lives with a family in Memphis.

I loved loved loved the chapters from the past. We have pogroms, we have a girl disguised as a boy in order to escape certain death, we have the Jewish mafia, and we have an unlikely and tender love story. We have kabbala and numerology, we have kreplach and pickled herring. The contemporary chapters paled by comparison for me. A friend is reading the book right now as I type, and he loves both sections equally. He finds the rabbi-cum-entrepreneur falling in love with game shows and soap operas on TV, and via this medium learning English, the best part of the book.

Perhaps another reviewer who is a better writer can adequately describe the language of the book. There's a lot of Yiddish, only haphazardly defined.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I first ran across Steve Stern when I found "Lazar Malkin Enters Heaven" in the half-price bin at Barnes and Noble, where it didn't deserve to be, years ago. Ever since then, I've been watching his work carefully, and I'm glad I do.

In "The Frozen Rabbi," Stern returns to the vanished, quasi-mythical Jewish Memphis that he's been painstakingly reconstructing ever since "Lazar Malkin" with this story of 15-year old shlub Bernie Karp, and his accidental discovery of a Hasidic rebbe in a block of ice in his apathetic and assimilated family's deep freeze. The discovery sets off a rollicking account of how the ancestral Karps obtained and shlepped the old boy from Russian shtetls to the crime-sodden ghettos of Lodz and the Lower East Side, to British Mandate Palestine and ultimately to Memphis. Stern juxtaposes the historical account with the modern-day mayhem that the thawed-out holy man wreaks upon Bernie and his family when, intoxicated by the lascivity and commercialized banality of modern American spirituality, he gleefully fires up his own "name it and claim it" born-again cult, equal parts Jewish Renewal movement, Jim Jones, and Tammy Faye Bakker.

Stern's accomplishment is spin what could have been a clunky metaphor--a rabbi frozen in a block of ice as the Karp family's own Jewishness, with both its burdensome inconvenience and obligations and its rich vibrancy--into a compelling yarn. He deftly uses the symbolism of ice's dual nature--something that both petrifies and preserves--to shape the family's character, livelihoods, and destinies throughout their generations of the rabbi's stewardship, and does so amazingly entertainingly.
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Format: Hardcover
The Yiddish literary tradition is full of bizarre characters, offhand curses and incantations, self-deprecatory humor, and a deep sense of humanity. It's a tradition spun by hearty survivalists who have been to hell and back and know how to laugh about it. Steve Stern's THE FROZEN RABBI fits the mold quite well.

There are two stories here. The first concerns the nominally Jewish teen Bernie Karp --- overweight, boring and irritating --- stimulated only by food and pornography. In Memphis, Tennessee, he lives with his equally reprobate family, as uncaring, unpleasant and spiritually deadened as he. One day, while rifling through the basement freezer, Bernie discovers an old Chasid frozen in a block of ice. His father casually remarks that it's a family heirloom, over a hundred years old, and lets the matter drop. And so it does, until Bernie is home alone for the weekend during a thunderstorm that cuts the house's power, and the rabbi thaws. And so begins the rabbi's --- a well-practiced, slightly batty mystic --- adventures into a consumerist America that treats enlightenment as both a commodity and a drug.

As Bernie wrestles with his newfound sense of Judaism, he studies the tract written by his grandfather that tells the second story of the novel: how the rabbi arrived in America from a tiny village in Poland, frozen all the way. This isn't your classic immigrant story. The characters are all pleasantly mad, and events range from magical to nonsensical. But the story winds up, like so many immigrant tales do, in New York's Lower East Side, depicted as an underworld and a fantasy, a home to gangsters and honest men.
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