- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Algonquin Books (October 9, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1565124200
- ISBN-13: 978-1565124202
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #979,661 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green
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From Publishers Weekly
A witty, sensitive boy observes the darkly humorous goings-on in his Orthodox Jewish family in 1970s New Jersey. Jacob Green idolizes his older brother, Asher, and misses his withdrawn mother, Claire, but his father, the charismatic, tyrannical Abram, dominates the family. At 10, Jacob's unthinkable sin of forgetting to wear his tzitzit to yeshiva sets off an amusing chain of events—Asher's scheming to trick the rabbi, the destruction of the rabbi's tzitzit and Jacob's suspension—that quickly turns sober when Jacob faces his father's rage. At 13, Jacob lives in a state of anxiety—his learning disability and his father's resulting disappointment erode his confidence; Asher withdraws into adolescence; his mother flees the house to pursue a Ph.D. and another man. Jacob would love to rebel (he's got "a father so far up my ass you can see him performing in my pupils"), but mostly he mentally rewrites his bar mitzvah thank-yous as rants and fantasizes about his live-in babysitter, Megan. When Claire and Abram divorce and Megan moves out, Jacob conveys his angst through a series of letters addressed to Megan. By the time he's 15, Jacob is painfully lonely, as he shuttles between his father's oppressiveness and his mother's honeymooning obliviousness. Although Jacob is a likable, funny narrator, his keen observation and vibrant imagination falter under the weight of Abram's presence and Claire's absence.
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*Starred Review* Like a child, Jacob Green's father, Abram, wants what he wants when he wants it and will throw a temper tantrum if he doesn't get it. What Abram wants most of all is the perfect suburban Jewish family--perfectly intelligent, perfectly religious, and perfect at obeying thy father. Braff's rich, moving, and very funny first novel begins with a 1977 housewarming party at which Abram dramatically introduces each member of his family while the four children and their mother seethe with resentment at being paraded as testaments to Abram's greatness. Jacob's present-tense, first-person narration keeps the pace quick, and the exquisite plotting ensures that Jacob's growing emotional turmoil is paralleled by metaphorically resonant real-life events. To survive and mentally escape his father's cruel, perverse love, young Jacob shares hilariously unthinkable thoughts--the funniest are the hypothetical bar mitzvah thank-you notes in which Jacob thanks people for Jerusalem stone bookends and the like and then details his lust for his live-in nanny before signing "Love, Jacob." Readers will adore Jacob, but Braff's greater accomplishment is describing the boy's complex relationship with his father so well that we are forced to see the cruel, self-obsessed Abram as something more than a mere monster of ego. John Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top customer reviews
If you add up all the slang terms (there’re 27) and then multiply this number by 15, you probably end up somewhere in the vicinity of how often teenage boys think about getting laid. That’s nearly 17 times an hour. Am I exaggerating? I wish I were. And it doesn’t really matter if your father is half-crazy and your mother decides to start boning her psychology professor, a teenage boy can still dream of a better life. Even if your nanny doesn’t feel the same way about you, you can still enjoy the view and keep the more X-rated thoughts to yourself and have wet dreams in the privacy of your bedroom.
THE UNTHINKABLE THOUGHTS OF JACOB GREEN reminded me of a dysfunctional family on steroids. When I reached the end, I had developed an even greater appreciation for my own upbringing, and it was hard not for me to consider myself lucky. Sure, I could bemoan my own familial problems, or my own teenage drama (rather mild in comparison), or the skirmishes my brother and I experienced on multiple occasions, but none of those thoughts crossed my mind. Instead, amusement crossed my lips, as character after character acted out in the craziest manner, and I found myself hanging on for the ride.
Author of Falling Immortality: Casey Holden, Private Investigator
The plot was not predictable, which was refreshing.
The dad was a bit too neurotic, though, a caricature of a controlling father, especially when he demanded hugs from his son, and the abuse made me uncomfortable.
I enjoyed the realistic interplay between the main character and his older brother. Details about the Jewish traditions interested me as well, especially when contrasted against non-Jewish society and how they interplay. Also, rebellion against family values and traditions seemed realistic and thought-provoking, though mom seemed distant and detached from the plight of her kids. A little more motive would have helped me see her as 3D instead of just self-absorbed and emotionally beat up by her controlling husband.
Decent plot, smooth writing. I enjoyed the book, not for everyone but a good read for people interested in exploring family dynamics.
There is not a bad thing to say about this book. The off-the-cuff humor brings you to reality with that of a teenager and allows you to share a laugh as Jacob fends off the abnormalities that his family possesses. There are a few parts in the book I could have cried and the humiliation showed through the main character shines bright. Do not attempt to read this as a serious reflection or to gain insight of religion as Braff writes in such a way that this book depicts Jacob's life and not the average or normal Jewish life. The book itself has enough serious for you to climb in and just enjoy.
After finishing this book filled with explosive and curious dialog, I'm looking forward to buying another book from the author. I will be reading "Jacob Green" again very soon and hoping to pass on its grande character to whomever I can. And if Joshua is reading this, I'd be pleased to see a screenplay for this. It would make an excellent movie. :)