"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.
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