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Showing 11-20 of 73 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 136 reviews
on December 17, 2014
Although these stories were well written and made to force the reader to make sense of the overall journey we face during our lifetime, the stories were very disturbing and difficult to read. I suppose the authors point is that we should all recognize that life is very difficult, and many are not as fortunate as we may be.
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on August 22, 2013
I am reading this book to participate in a book discussion group. It is a collection of short stories, and each of the short stories stimulates thought about what went on in the story. Many of the stories have ambiguous endings, which I find thought provoking. Some people, however, may find the ambiguities frustrating. Ths us a book for people who want to have their assumption challenged. I enjoyed it.
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on July 27, 2017
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on November 16, 2015
This a simple little book, easily read, but a long time in digesting. Questions arose that I thought about at the reading, and continue to think of many days later. A very worthwhile book.
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on February 11, 2012
"Free Fruit for Young Widows" is, fortunately, placed last in this collection of stories by gifted writer, Nathan Englander, because otherwise the reader might decide that if the others were like it that maybe it would be far too much to deal with emotionally. It is a heart-wrenching story.
I read the first story a few weeks ago when it appeared in "The New Yorker," and that is when I made the decision to purchase this book. This story is so funny--at least it is so funny until it isn't funny any more. An Orthodox Jewish couple have returned to the United States from their home in Jerusalem to visit an ailing relative. And they find themselves reuniting with another couple who are so not Orthodox. The two women were friends in their youth. These are two very unlikely couples to be meeting together. The unOrthodoxes have a sixteen-year-old son who, of course, has a stash of weed. So it's a story of wine and weed and what happens when inhibitions disappear, the four of them finding themselves in a pantry and talking about Anne Frank. Oh my...
Some of the stories are set in Israel: "Sister Hills" and "Free Fruit for Young Widows" with some of "Everything I Know..." set there.
Because I like humor--and most of Englander's humor goes straight to the edge of blackness--other than the opening story, I enjoyed "How We Avenged the Blums" and "Camp Sundown" the best. In the Blum story there is a teen-aged Anti-Semite (he is never given an acutal name) who is terrorizing the three Blum boys, typical Jewish boys who haven't learned to fight back. (Of course were it set in Israel they would have learned to do so!) And so the boys learn how to avenge the little pieces of terror inflicted upon them. And in "Camp Sundown," a young man, Josh, is now the director of a summer camp where a lake separates the children from the elders. Yes, a camp for elder Jews, hence Sundown! And it seems that one of the elder campers--the bridge--playing guy with Alzheimer's--is quite possibly a former Nazi. At least two of the "campers" believe so. And they are out for revenge except Josh needs to run an orderly camp. So you can see where this one might lead to some very funny situations.
The stories are really varied, and I found that refreshing. And, of course, they all involve Jews which we come to expect from Nathan Englander, right?
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on January 27, 2013
The title story is the best. Non of the other stories seem to go any ware. The characters don't learn anything. He has no sympathy for understanding of Orthodox Jews. The only thing I learned from this book was the author's own prejudices. He has no sympathy for his own characters.
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on March 4, 2012
It is too bad that short stories have lost some respect in these days when the novel is king. And yet, regular readers of periodicals like The New Yorker, Granta, The Paris Review and others, know that there are still excellent stories being written and published. In fact, I discovered that I had read the concluding story of this volume, "Free Fruit for Young Widows" before, in the pages of The New Yorker. I hadn't remembered Mr. Englander as the author but, considering how vividly I remembered the story, I knew it was a good one.

Of course, by the time I got to relive the final tale, I knew Mr. Englander was a master of the short story. Any collection of stories is bound to be a mixed bag, but I would consider five out of the eight stories here of the first rank. It would be easy to compliment him for his willingness to take on issues like the Holocaust and the conflicts in Israel; however, in some ways this is just background for his real expertise: bringing out the conflict between Jewish life as it is experienced by modern, more secular Jews versus the life of older and/or more fundamentalist Jews.

In the title story, for example, we see two couples--an American couple with one child, and an Israeli orthodox couple with 10 children. The wives were best friends in high school and so the couples meet while the Hassidic couple is in America for a visit after many years. Englander deftly brings out strengths and weaknesses in both couples before zeroing in on a powerful conclusion.

Similar confrontations come out in stories like "Sister Hills", "Everything I Know About My Family on My Mother's Side", "Camp Sundown", and the aforementioned "Free Fruit for Young Widows". These are all stories I expect I will come back to again and again. Englander seems to miss a bit when he turns a character's eyes inward, as he does with "Peep Show" and "The Readers", but these are still worth reading.

Overall, this is the best collection of stories I have read in a long while. I highly recommend it.
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on April 23, 2016
Nathan Englander never ceases to impress with his writing, insight and humor.
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on January 13, 2013
Our entire book club chose this book for our monthly meeting. Unusually for us we were unanimous in our dislike of the book. Generally, the first story and the last one seemed to garner the best comments but all those in between left us wanting.
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on March 4, 2012
After "For the Relief of Unbearable Urges," I never thought that Nathan Englander could do any better. But he has done at least as well, if not better than his first book of short stories about Orthodox Jews living in today's modern world. Englander was raised Chasidic and lived that rigid lifestyle for many years. Then he renounced it when he saw it for what it was: rigid, obsessive, and in many ways, hypocritical. Thus, we get his stories. They are entertaining to anyone who has the slightest knowledge of the religion or maybe even to those who don't, but as someone who lives in a situation similar to Englander's his short stories really resonate with me in particular. He doesn't disappoint in this second volume of stories. My favorite was "What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank," a take off on the famous Raymond Chandler short story, "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love." Only Englander can do this title justice and not make it seem like a parody of Chandler's great work. The contrast of the secular Jews and the Chasidic Israeli Jews who find each other together because the wives were school mates at a religious girls school in New York is both shocking and funny. The end is unexpected and ironic. The Anne Frank Game is a game not to be taken lightly, we learn. "Sister Hills" was my second favorite. The irony in that story made me genuinely sad at the end. A young, gorgeous girl who lives in the occupied territories of Israel ends up giving up a promising life due to a deal her own mother made to another in order to save the girl's life when she was a newborn. Buy this book. You will not be disappointed even if you are not Jewish or even if you are Chasidic and you resent Nathan for his disdainful views of the Haredi (rigorously religous) lifestyle.
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