Another absorbing, albeit low-key foray into the world of Orthodox Jews, by the author of two story collections: Total Immersion (1989) and The Family Markowitz (1996). Covering two years (1976—78) in the life of the devout community led by Rav Elijah Kirshner, Goodman chronicles spiritual and psychological journeys taken by various group members. The principal events occur in the Kirshners’ summer retreat, the upstate town of Kaaterskill, with a few key scenes in their New York City neighborhood of Washington Heights. Model Orthodox wife and mother Elizabeth Shulman has always found the Rav’s strict laws as natural as the air she breathes, but now her experiences running a kosher store in Kaaterskill expose tensions between Orthodox Judaism’s strictly defined role for women and Elizabeth’s ambitions for herself and her daughters. As the Rav’s health worsens, he softens toward his apostate son, scholarly, skeptical Jeremy, to the distress of long-suffering Isaiah, who has spent years as their father’s unthanked amanuensis and putative but unacknowledged successor. Conflicts also simmer between Andras Melish, whose primary loyalty is to his elderly sisters, and his much younger wife, Nina; between the determined-to-be-pious Nina and their rebellious daughter, Renee; and in the breast of Elizabeth’s daughter Chani, fascinated by modern Israel even though the Kirshners don—t consider it a true Jewish homeland. Though all Goodman’s people are believably complex and emotionally engaging, the best character here is the surprisingly cynical Rav himself, slightly contemptuous of disciples who lack his grounding in the more worldly culture of pre-Holocaust Europe. Subplots involving Kaaterskill’s Yankee residents and a local real estate developer are less interesting, and, as in The Family Markowitz, Goodman doesn’t develop much narrative momentum. The only really dramatic moment comes when Elizabeth loses rabbinical permission to operate her store; otherwise the author relies on quiet moments of tentative reconciliation to wrap up her story. You don’t read Goodman for thrills, but for rich characterizations and faultless evocation of a cloistered culture—pleasures in ample supply here.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32839-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1998

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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