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Snow in August Paperback – October 1, 1999

4.1 out of 5 stars 288 customer reviews

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In 1940s Brooklyn, friendship between an 11-year-old Irish Catholic boy and an elderly Jewish rabbi might seem as unlikely as, well, snow in August. But the relationship between young Michael Devlin and Rabbi Judah Hirsch is only one of the many miracles large and small contained in Pete Hamill's novel. Michael finds himself in trouble when he witnesses the 17-year-old leader of the dreaded Falcons gang beating an elderly shopkeeper. For Michael, 1940s Brooklyn is a world still shaped by life in the Old Country, a world where informing on a fellow Irishman is the worst crime imaginable--worse even than the violent crimes committed by some of those fellows. So Michael keeps silent, finding solace in the company of Rabbi Hirsch, a Czech refuge whom he meets by chance. From this serendipitous beginning blossoms a unique friendship--one that proves perilous to both when the Falcons catch up with them.

Interlaced with Hamill's realistic descriptions of violence and fear are scenes of remarkable poignancy: the rabbi's first baseball game, where he sees Jackie Robinson play for the Dodgers; Michael's introduction into the mystical world of the Cabbala and the book's miraculous ending. Hamill is not a lyrical writer, but he is a heartfelt one, and this story of courage in the face of great odds is one of his best. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In Brooklyn in 1947, Michael Devlin, an 11-year-old Irish kid who spends his days reading Captain Marvel and anticipating the arrival of Jackie Robinson, makes the acquaintance of a recently emigrated Orthodox rabbi. In exchange for lessons in English and baseball, Rabbi Hirsch teaches him Yiddish and tells him of Jewish life in old Prague and of the mysteries of the Kabbalah. Anti-Semitism soon rears its head in the form of a gang of young Irish toughs out to rule the neighborhood. As the gang escalates its violence, it seems that only being as miraculously powerful as Captain Marvel?or a golem?could stop them. Strongly evoking time and place, Hamill (Piecework, LJ 12/95), editor of New York's Daily News, serves up a coming-of-age tale with a hearty dose of magical realism mixed in. Recommended for most public libraries.?Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, Andover, Mass.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (October 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446675253
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446675253
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (288 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,380,410 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
If you have a pulse, you will love this book. Whether you are from Brooklyn, Boston or Bangladesh, you will love this book. Whether you are Jewish, Catholic or Athiest, you will love this book! Pete Hamill does a fabulous job of harkoning us back to a simpler time (Brooklyn, circa 1947) without making us think that it was Utopia. The lead characters, Michael Devlin and Rabbi Hirsch, both are longing for acceptance and companionship. The Rabbi lost his wife in the Holocaust. Michael, the 11-year old protagonist of the story, lost his Father in the Battle of the Bulge. An unlikely meeting leads to a mutually beneficial relationship. The Rabbi fine tunes his English and learns the magical appeal of the game of baseball through the boy's teachings. Michael is equally enriched by falling under the spell of the Rabbi's stories and the Yiddish language. As outsiders, both revel in the exploits of Jackie Robinson, who breaks baseball's color line with his combination of skill and grace. Unfortunately, the duo learns that all is not wonderful and safe in postwar Brooklyn. A gang called the Falcons and their leader, Frankie McCarthy, intervenes with menacing intent. The gang inflicts serious beatings on the Rabbi and the boy and with threats of worse consequences lingering, Michael has to turn to his belief in one of the Rabbi's parables to save the day. It is a beautiful tale of friendship. Both lead characters are extremely likeable. The theme of overcoming all odds is exhilirating. Take the leap of faith and enjoy this wonderful novel.
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Format: Paperback
In this delightful and magical novel by Pete Hamill, eleven-year-old Michael Devlin, a young altarboy, meets Rabbi Judah Hirsch, an Orthodox rabbi who has called out to Michael as he is passing the synagogue during a terrible snowstorm in 1947. The rabbi urgently needs someone to turn on the lights for him, but it is the Sabbath, a day of rest and contemplation, and turning on the lights is considered "work." The two strike up an unusual friendship, as each learns from the other, with Michael teaching the rabbi English, and the rabbi teaching Michael Yiddish. Michael is hoping to read the "magic" books the rabbi has in his library, books about Prague, the Kabbalah, the Golem, miracles, and the secret name of God.

Michael and his widowed mother live in a section of Brooklyn where the majority population is Irish, but it includes gangs of young toughs who prey on other immigrants, especially the Jews. During British rule in Ireland, the Irish developed a code of silence, and they have brought this code and their fear of the authorities with them to Brooklyn. When Michael observes the savage beating of a Jewish storekeeper, the gang threatens Michael if he talks. Though he knows this violence is wrong--and against everything he has learned in church--he obeys the code.

The novel is a morality tale, with a good deal of teaching done by the rabbi--about the past history of the Jews, about Judaism itself, and about the mysticism of the Kabbalah--illustrating the misunderstandings of Michael and his friends about a religion which is alien to them, but Hamill goes to considerable lengths to keep the novel from being preachy. Since Michael is only eleven, he carefully limits the point of view to what an eleven-year-old would think and feel.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Pete Hamill's novel is a gripping and moving story of how people from different backgrounds of religion and ethnicity can learn from one another and grow deeper in their understanding of what faith truly means. Michael Devlin, the 11 year old Irish Catholic altar boy, is an unforgettable young man. At the age when childhood answers, ideas and solutions do not quite work anymore, he is opened to a world of "magic," that is really a world of profound faith. Rabbi Hirsch, recent immigrant from Prague and a Holocaust survivor, recaptures his faith and his trust in humanity through his friendship with Michael. The rabbi's efforts to learn and master the English language and its complexities while make readers smile. Michael's efforts to learn Yiddish from the rabbi while likewise entertain. But there are, too, profound moments of horror and sadness as these two characters--so different and yet so alike--confront the prejudices and bigotries of close-minded neighbors in 1947 Brooklyn. The novel is set against the backdrop of Jackie Robinson's call up to major league baseball. This event, too, solidifies the bond between Rabbi Hirsch and Michael Devlin. The morals and themes presnt in this novel are beautiful and transcend any one religion; they are ideals that all of humanity can and should grasp and live by. The Golem, part of Jewish legend, survives on two things: faith and truth. Faith and truth are the real winners in this beautiful story.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
There is magic in snow, especially in the memories of snow in one's childhood. So, the grand adventure of a fatherless Irish Catholic altar boy in 1940's New York begins in snow. The voice through the snow, that of a Jewish rabbi newly emigrated to the U. S., is Michael Devlin's call to adventure.
An unlikely and captivating friendship results with Michael teaching the Rabbi English, and the Rabbi teaching Michael about the mystical truths of kabbalah, Yiddish, and the Jewish ghetto of centuries past Poland. Just as Jackie Robinson emerges as the great black hope of baseball, Michael and Judah Hirsch emerge to fight off the racist, bullying Falcons.
The fantasy of the Golem, a Jewish enforcer of justice, is restored to legendary status here. There is plenty of suspense and torture to overcome as Michael stands up for his Jewish friend and for his mother and himself. Michael comes of age through his exhibition of courage.
Did it really happen? Who cares? This is a great story with a happy ending. Get transported to another time when all things are possible. Read Snow in August. Or hope for a great movie version.
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