THE FAR EUPHRATES by Aryeh Lev Stollman
Kirkus Star


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A ruminative and wonderfully moving first novel about a sheltered boyhood and adolescence, tracing the confusions and pains visited on its sensitive protagonist by approaching maturity. Aryeh Alexander, a rabbi's son, grows up in the 1960s in Windsor, Ontario. His doting extended family is dominated by his mother's childless best friend Berenice and by Hannalore, the twin sister of his father's Cantor and a survivor whose long-repressed memories of WW II Europe comprise one of several disillusioning lessons Alexander is fated to learn about the complex freedoms and burdens of adulthood. From his scholarly father, Alexander learns that ""it's human nature to seek out patterns wherever they may present themselves""--and the novel proceeds to show his instruction in both the necessity and the limitations of discovering such patterns. The Cantor's patient tending of his potted palm trees cannot prevent the devastation wrought by a tornado. No amount of familial love or protectiveness can prevent the sufferings or deaths of the innocent. And the laborious research undertaken by Alexander's father into the geographical and spiritual origins of mankind in the valley of ""the far Euphrates with its source in Eden"" is destined to yield endless and unanswerable further questions in place of ultimate answers. Stollman expertly dramatizes both Alexander's inevitable fascination with the world outside his somewhat insular family (the mercurial personality of a ""deformed"" girl who simultaneously courts him and pushes him away; his sexual fixation on the briefly glimpsed figure of a handsome older boy); and the intellectual and moral momentum that draws him, despite himself, into the embracing orbit of the world of his fathers. A series of losses, and the acceptance of--and accommodations to--loss elevate the lyrical final pages into both a thoroughly satisfying elegy for all the things that cannot remain and an affirmation of our right and need to believe in the essential permanence of things and of the spirit.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1997
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Riverhead/Putnam