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Swimming across the Hudson Hardcover – April 14, 1997

4.5 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Intrusion: A Novel
A loving couple, grieving the loss of their son, finds their marriage in free fall when a beautiful, long-lost acquaintance inserts herself into their lives. Learn More
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"When you're adopted, everything's contingent." So says Ben Suskind, the narrator of Joshua Henkin's debut novel, Swimming Across the Hudson. Ben knows what he's talking about: the sons of different birth mothers, he and his brother Jonathan were both adopted by Orthodox Jewish parents and brought up on Manhattan's Upper West Side in a religious/intellectual/political hothouse that left them gasping for air and the opportunity to figure themselves out. For Ben, claiming an identity means meeting his birth mother, an event that is both shocking--she informs him he wasn't born a Jew--and depressing--he's bored by her. For Jonathan, it means admitting his homosexuality to his family.

Exploring serious issues of identity, family, and where you turn when the chips are down, Swimming Across the Hudson is filled with perceptive insights and told in quiet, fluid prose. This auspicious first novel augurs well for Joshua Henkin.

From Library Journal

This first novel is so filled with family dynamics it almost bursts. Two adopted brothers, Ben and Jonathan Suskind, raised in New York City by loving and observant Jewish intellectual parents, are now just past 30 and living in San Francisco. Narrator Ben is unsettled about all sorts of issues: his Jewishness (he is living with a Gentile and her daughter), his career as a high school teacher, and his identity. So when he receives a letter from his birth mother, he decides to meet her and sort through his past. Jonathan, a gay physician, has no such troubles. As Ben unravels much of his adoptive family's secrets, his birth mother's past, and then the identity Jonathan's birth mother (whom he seeks out surreptitiously), he is not sure he has done the right thing. Henkin delivers a heavy dose of changing family traditions in the 1990s, which for some readers may be a struggle. Still, this is an illuminating work; recommended for general collections.?Molly Abramowitz, Silver Spring, Md.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 230 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult; First Edition edition (April 14, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399141162
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399141164
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,272,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The New York Times review hits all the major points. This is a touching story of two adopted brothers, one in search of more than just his biological mother. It raises questions about identity, family, all told through the voice of one of the brothers. A great first novel. I look forward to reading more from Henki
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Format: Hardcover
Perhaps it's unfair to compare a current work to a book an author wrote a decade ago (after all, it's to be expected--and hoped--that the author would show growth in ten years) but I ordered Swimming across the Hudson right after reading the wonderful Matrimony, so the comparison seemed inevitable.

Swimming across the Hudson is a good novel, about the things that make us (or divide us) into a family, and has compelling characters. But I felt it lacked the wonderful simplicity that made Matrimony such an outstanding book. Still, Swimming across the Hudson is a worthy effort, by a talented author.
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By A Customer on January 4, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed this book. If you are gay & jewish you can relate to this story. It is well told and the character's obsessions are relevant and realistic. I couldn't put it down until it was completed. Passed it around to friends who have also enjoyed.
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Format: Hardcover
I LOVED this little book! Why did it take me fourteen years to find it? It's been out of print for a while now, another of those mysteries I'll never understand. Why do books this good simply disappear?!

This is a delightful story, told in very simple and straightforward language, all about what it means to be loved and the paramount importance of family. On the surface it's about adoption, religion, sexual identity, maturity - all pretty heavy topics, to be certain. Its ingenuity is the way it all seems so deceptively simple. Narrator Ben Suskind is thirty years old, but seems rather Peter Pan-ish in his inability or unwillingness to commit to a three year-old relationship with Jenny, who has an eleven year-old daughter. He's not too sure about his vocation as a private school history teacher either, turning down the offer of a department chairmanship because he'd rather play basketball after school, likes having the summer off and isn't sure if he'll even stay with the job. In fact, the only reason he seems to have moved to San Francisco after his graduation from Yale is because that's where his brother Jonathan was moving. Ben reflects fondly and at length on their orthodox Jewish upbringing in Manhattan. Both adopted and only five months apart in age, they are as close as two brothers have ever been, and have intelligent, educated and doting parents.

But Ben has always wondered about his birth parents, and finally meets his birth mother, then tries unsuccessfully to convince Jonathan to follow suit. Ben's reunion with his birth mother is awkward and less than what he'd hoped for, and yet they do become fond of each other.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book was recommended to me by a good friend who knew it was something I could relate to. I have 2 beautiful daughters who came to us through adoption. I know my story, the struggles with infertility, the years spent trying to conceive. But this is not a parent's story. This is a child's look. I really appreciate it.
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