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A contemporary novel with an American background, the central theme -- atonement,- as one man, tortured by his conscience for a trick he had played on a poor man, a trick that gave him his start on the road to wealth and eminence, turns his back on all he has achieved in a determination to right the wrong. The obsession baffles even his devoted secretary, and before she realizes what she is doing to him, she has helped build the evidence his son uses to place him in a mental institution. There the project he had undertaken as part payment of his debt is cancelled out; his freedom is curtailed, and the mental deterioration which his son and associates had claimed begins to set in. Then comes the grandson, who as a result of war contact with a spiritual rabbi had turned back to the faith of his forbears, and through the grandson and the rabbi, Isaac Grossman finds the path again; the truth about the man he had wronged is run to earth; the veteran's housing project he had started is again put into operation, and the victory of the spirit in a material world is established for the bewildered seeker. The story is rooted deeply in the tenets of Judaism; reinterpretation of an ancient faith is given powerful impetus. The character of Isaac Grossman stamps itself indelibly on the reader's mind, though some of the situations and some of the other characters seem shadowy, unreal. Asch has here merged something of the power of his religious theme novels with the challenge of modern life. Not since East River (1936) has he turned to the contemporary scene. His touch is perhaps not so assured, but the story teller is there- and the motif of a search for a personal God is a timeless one.

Pub Date: Oct. 16th, 1953
Publisher: Putnam