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Kaaterskill Falls Paperback – August 10, 1999
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Despite her pious husband's doubts, she does, in the form of a store catering to Kaaterskill's "summer people"--a community Goodman brings memorably to life. The Shulmans' neighbor Andras Melish, a Hungarian who fled World War II and a vanished world of assimilated European Jewry, struggles to understand his young Argentinian wife Nina, whose need for tradition grows with each passing year. The ailing Rav Kirshner must decide which son will carry on in his shoes: dutiful but plodding Isaiah or his brilliant but secular brother Jeremy. Andras and Nina's daughter befriends an Arab girl, while Elizabeth and Isaac's daughter dreams in secret of Israel. Meanwhile, the town's year-round residents observe the Orthodox newcomers with bewilderment and occasional dismay.
As she proved in a warm and funny 1996 collection of stories, The Family Markowitz, Goodman is an unparalleled observer of human nature. Here, she charts with quiet assurance the daily rhythms of Kaaterskill: the meals prepared and eaten, the Holy Days observed, the ebb and flow of married life. Goodman gets all the important details right; her children's dialogue, for instance, is unerring. Above all, however, she brings to the subject of religious life a seriousness and subtlety rarely found in recent fiction. Wise was the word used again and again to describe The Family Markowitz. Applied to Kaaterskill Falls, it is no less apt. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
This is a quiet book, a soft and subtle book, but the individual characters will captivate you and stay with you for a long time.
The love story is so true; so full of angles and points, and tiny discussions about daily life. Goodman leaves in the tangible and leaves out "summer vacation" schmaltz, the absence of which one reviewer bemoans. A beautiful, respectful, unintimidating novel.
The writing and story telling is so smooth that you come to enjoy each character, and to look forward to their exposition. Characters are vivid -- even if they do not develop much.
The book falls short on several levels. First, you do not learn anything useful or telling about Jewish life in America. The Kirshners are in many senses a fringe community, but not a particularly interesting one. Their struggles with acculturization are not well told, and their conflicts with the townies are muted and uninteresting. Second, you do not learn anything fun or useful about vacations in America -- this very much wastes the backdrop of Kaaterskill Falls. Some plot elements seem forced -- a mysterious car accident seems to have no real plot purpose.
This book is ultimately about relationships -- sons and fathers, brothers, husbands, wives, kids. It is about orthodoxy and rule bound religion and what it means to be a good person. The book is a good read and fun, but stops short of penetrating any great questions or developing any character too well, too deep, with too much meaning.
Within this context the reader will find the classic themes of parent/child conflicts, marital problems, the joys and constrictions of community life.
The author wisely does not give us tidy endings, leaving some loose ends, just as life does. But what I went away with was an idea of the direction in which the characters were going and how they had changed and (most of them) grown in the two years covered by the book. This is a good and satisfying read.
The story zooms in on a few families, primarily one with six girls whose mother decides, in a barely believable moment of epiphany, that it's her destiny to open up a kosher store upstate so the Jewish cooks don't have to wait for their menfolk to deliver the Sabbath challah and kosher meats.
I liked the book, with some reservations, such as the almost unbelievable drama mentioned above. Another problem is geographical; Goodman's errors undermine the reader's ability to "suspend disbelief". The problem is this: Kaaterskill Falls is an invented village, but the surrounding towns are real: having lived in upstate New York some 15 years, I recognized them. The author, however, apparently didn't look at a map: she puts Phoenecia way too close to Palenville--which it is not (click for map)--and that's just one of several similar mistakes.
I won't go into the other minor sticking points, since KF is ultimately a good read, almost tailor-made for summer, especially if you're lucky enough to be sitting on the porch of a lakeside cabin (I'm drooling at the vision).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I enjoyed reading this book. It was fun to recall areas close to the Catskills. More importantly, the taste for women having careers along with observing their faith is an... Read morePublished 16 months ago by S.I.
I don't have enough meaningful superlatives in my vocabulary to describe this bookPublished 19 months ago by C7503R
interesting education of Jewish traditions and a warm, languid depiction of intertwined families. I so wanted Elizabeth to flourish and still reconcile her faith in tradition... Read morePublished on May 27, 2014 by Dennis Hamsher
The most boring book that was well written! The story is is ok but the descriptions kill me. They are so boring. I finished the book in one week because it was a class read. Read morePublished on March 28, 2014 by RuqZuh
Could not hold reader interest. Shallow characterizations, incoherent. Admittedly depicts an alien world to most readers. Love her other books such as The Cookbook Collector. Read morePublished on November 25, 2013 by CC.
Dull, dull, dull. I do not know how I finished the book. I think that I thought there would be a story somewhere but there was not. Read morePublished on November 24, 2013 by Jean C. Fox
One of the most beautifully written books I've encountered. It's richly textured and very evocative. It's the kind of book you don't want to end.Published on April 9, 2013 by Jeremy Glass
The best part of this book is that it set in the late 1970's and touches on political and international events that I remember as a kid. Read morePublished on April 4, 2013 by leora baumgarten