I’m not entirely sure how to talk about this book. It’s almost a book you shouldn’t talk about. Or maybe it’s been too close to me finishing it and and I’m still in the “I have no words” stage. I’m still going to try. Maybe I’ll make sense of my own thoughts.
It is the now-classic story of two fathers and two sons and the pressures on all of them to pursue the religion they share in the way that is best suited to each. And as the boys grow into young men, they discover in the other a lost spiritual brother, and a link to an unexplored world that neither had ever considered before. In effect, they exchange places, and find the peace that neither will ever retreat from again….
Not the greatest synopsis, so I’ll do my best to explain in my own words.
The Chosen is a story about a Jewish boy, Reuven Malter, and his friend, Danny Saunders. It takes place during and after WWII in the Jewish community of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York City. Both boys come from very different backgrounds – Reuven is a modern Orthodox Jew, meaning that he can be involved in the secular world while sill remaining Jewish; and Danny is a Hasidic Jew, meaning that he supposed to be separate from the secular world and have nothing whatsoever to do with it. The two meet by accident at a baseball game gone wrong and at first become rivals, but then form a strong friendship. The story’s told from Rueven’s point of view, but more often than not it seems to be really Danny’s story.
I’ve already said it, but this book is amazing. It’s very subtly done, absolutely nothing knocks you over the head (except the baseball). It actually took me a chapter or so to get into it. I was mainly reading it because two people I respect very much said it was a masterpiece. But then, once I was past those initial chapters, I couldn’t stop. I’m not sure what it was. I mean, the prose was beautiful, but plot was totally different from most of what I read (it was more character driven, I’m a plot driven person). But the characters leapt off the page, but not in the vibrant way you’d expect. It was like they were breathing, gently, smoothly pulsing on the page. You wanted desperately what they wanted, even when they weren’t sure what they wanted. I actually found myself yelling (silently, there were other people in the room) at Danny at one point.
The themes were breathtaking. I don’t know exactly what they were – I’m very, very dense when it comes to that sort of thing, you really need to hit me over the head with it – but they were there, even if I can’t put an exact name to them. The questions and struggles that the characters asked and faced and answered were as real and breathing as the characters themselves.
For the last few pages of the book, which I shall not spoil, my eyes were wet. I didn’t even realize until about halfway through that I was crying. I still don’t know why I was crying. It’s not the things I normally cry about in books. Except that it was, in a way, now that I think about it. But that still doesn’t explain why I was crying.
When I had finished it, I wanted to be silent, to sit still and be quiet. Maybe to think, or maybe not. For the rest of the night after it, I really didn’t say much, which is very unusual for me. I didn’t feel the need to say anything.
The whole book was beautiful. If you ever get the chance, please read it. Your library probably has it, and if it doesn’t you can probably get it through inter-library loan. I think it was fairly popular a few years back. This is one I will definitely be buying my own copy as soon as I have the money.
In a separate note, before I go, there is an author I follow who’s trying to get people to sign up for his readers group. His blog is really good and really enjoyable to read (there’s so many really cool historical facts and posts) and he’s working on self-publishing his first novel, the Lamentation of Siren. I’m really looking forward to it. Anyway, he’s opened up a contest for people referring their friends to his reader’s group. I can tell you reliably that there is zero spam and no annoying emails. If you do sign up, email him and say I referred you? I get free stuff if a lot of you do. *grins* Thanks!
Here’s the link. You’re supposed to use the sign-up form in the actual post, not the one at the very bottom of the page: Nicholas Kotar Blog
Have you read the Chosen? Do you think you will read it? If you have read it, what did you think?