Book Review- My Name is Asher Lev.

Review on Chaim Potok’s My Name is Asher Lev. This was the first Potok i’ve ever read.

Christi lent me the book months ago and i hadn’t read it yet… don’t have a clue why. Then Corey told me Potok was his favorite and that i should read it. Two recommendations does it for me. I started reading last month and finished up on Saturday. I read for a couple hours out on the patio- enjoying the amazing weather we had over the weekend.

Now to business.

The Summary: Asher grows up in a Hasidic family in Brooklyn. He’s a good student when he wants to be- but mostly, he just wants to draw. However, drawing is not encouraged by his family or community. Does he continue in his selfishness and hurt the people around him? or does he grow into the only Asher he knows how to be?

The Good: Well, all of it. Potok is an unbelievably brilliant and gifted writer. The reader is instantly integrated into the orthodox culture Asher lives in and can’t help but feel at home. I wanted to say the Krias Shema with him every night.

The Bad: Seriously? The only thing i didn’t buy into was his description of Asher’s paintings. Its just hard to render a visual piece in words on a page. He didn’t try to hard- but should have been more vague.

The Deconstruction: The tension of responsibility to oneself versus the respon-sibility to one’s community. Peace, though never the word is never used in the book, is the theme at work. Will Asher live in peace with who he is made to be, or will he attempt to manufacture peace with others?

Thought it odd that while the climax goes outside Hasid for it reference point, the obvious reference point of scapegoating- an uber-hasidic reference- is left unused. I may be missing something there, but i thought it would come up. May be he left it out just to bother me.

The Question: Getting good fiction from a Rabbi is new to me. Are there other rabbis writing out there? Christian pastors for that matter?… that is, are/were there pastors writing fiction about christiany issues that are actually good? Dodgson, for example, doesn’t count.

The Bottom Line: Wow.

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