LIKE NEVER BEFORE by Ehud Havazelet


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Ten precious stories, six previously published, comprise a rich, multifaceted account of a Jewish family in conflict across generations and increasingly at odds with its faith, from the author of What Is it Then Between Us? (1988). The central figure in these interlocking tales is David, rebellious son of the pious Max Birnbaum, viewed in a variety of roles over the course of his life. As a child, he is both the reluctant companion on his father's long walks through Queens (""Six Days"") and the truant from his Hebrew school who torments a fellow miscreant in the subway after they escape detention and steal shamelessly from neighborhood stores (""Light of This World""). He fails to understand his first wife, losing her to her morbid fascination with a neighbor's brutal slaying, while he himself takes the first step toward losing his job as an architect (""The Street You Live On""). Finally, having moved to Oregon and remarried, he can't find a way to bridge the gap between himself and Max after his mother's death, when the old man comes to visit, bearing gifts, and is sent home in anger (""Like Never Before""). Filling out the portrait are a WWII story from Max's past (""Lyon"") and another from his future: During his last night on earth, he's visited in his Queens kitchen by his father and a lively welcoming committee from the afterlife (""Eight Rabbis on the Roof""). David's long-suffering mother Ruth, his commitment-shy sister Rachel, and their thrice-married, late-blooming cousin Leah also add perspectives and experiences to the family mosaic, which ends with David coming home for the unveiling of his father's tombstone (""To Live in Tiflis in the Springtime . . . ""). The author's compassion for his characters is wonderfully full, but when all is said and done, David's explosive anger over Max isn't adequately explained.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1998
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: "Farrar, Straus & Giroux"