Friday, November 14, 2008

Book 2: The Chosen

Title: The Chosen by Chaim Potok

Pages: 271

How was it obtained: I actually don't remember. I either "borrowed" it from my parents' collection, or purchased it cheap at a used bookstore. Something like that. However, the version I actually completed was a book on CD I checked out from the library!

Time spent on the "To Read" shelf: 2-3 years I think.

Days spent "reading" it: 10.75 hours in a car (more like "listening" to it).

Why I read it: One friend of mine recommended Chaim Potok to me a long time ago. He actually read My Name is Asher Lev. I thought the premise for The Chosen sounded interesting enough, so I picked it up somewhere.
For those of you paying attention, you'll notice on my book list that The Chosen was book 51! So why the heck has it been read already? Well, the same attentive reader will notice I listened to this one on CD. I started it during a 5 hour trip to Willard, OH for a Bible Quizzing trip. I made the kids listen to it. They hated it. Except one of them, and he only tolerated it. I finished it up this week as I traveled back to Willard for a youth pastor fellowship.

I count listening on CD as qualifying for completion of the book, although I will note that it was not read by me, rather it was read to me. I know, I know--Patrick you have the stinking physical copies of the books, you need to read them yourself. Well, I bought most of the books because they looked interesting. I want the content of the books, how I get that content is of little importance. Fortunately it will not be an issue for most of the books on this list. I'd typically rather read them myself anyway. But if a good audio book is an option, I'll take it on occasion.

Brief Review: OY VEY! During the first 3/4 of this book I was not sure if I liked it or not. The first chapter was a never ending baseball game described in too much detail. That same sort of problem occurs occasionally through the book. However, there are many great elements in The Chosen as well.

The Chosen revolves around the friendship of two boys--Danny and Reuven--who meet because Danny drills a baseball into Reuven's eye during this epic baseball game. There are wonderful themes of friendship, father-son relationships, struggles with growing up, struggles with tradition, struggles with God. The time backdrop for the book is from World War II to the creation of the physical nation of Israel (another interest of mine).

The cons: extensive discussions on Freud (Danny is interested in psychoanaylsis) and that interminable baseball game.

The pros: Danny and Reuven's relationship, Reuven's relationship with both his own father and Danny's father. I personally enjoyed the multiple discussions about how the Talmud is analyzed and argued by the students. I also love stories about prodigies, Danny happens to have a photographic memory, this fascinates me to no end. I think I wish I was a prodigy (sometimes I imagine I am!).

One thing about listening to this book (instead of reading it), was that during the climatic scene between Reuven, Danny, and Danny's father, I felt like I was actually listening to the conversation. I felt like Danny's father was talking to me. That was very powerful moment (and worth wading through some of the book to reach).

I ended up really enjoying this book. The characters are lovingly portrayed. There are complicated characters (like Reb Saunders, Danny's father, who is an Hasidic Rabbi and can be overly criticial), there are compassionate characters, like Reuven's father who helps Reuven and Danny through their difficult friendship. I loved the themes in this book. I loved the way I was drawn into this jewish community and all of its idiosyncracies. There were moments that were boring or drawn out, but in the end I think this book delivers, and would recommend to many readers with the caveat that it can drag and may not be for everyone.

Favorite quote from the book:
'Reuven, do you know what the rabbis tell us God said to Moses when he was about to die?'
I stared at him. 'No,' I heard myself say.
'He said to Moses, 'You have toiled and labored, now you are worthy of rest.' . . .
'A life filled with meaning is worthy of rest. I want to be worthy of rest when I am no longer here.'

3.5 0ut of 5.

The Final Word: Kosher.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Although I read this book as a high schooler, from my memory, you may not have felt the "drag" in some of the passages if you'd been reading the book -- because you just might have given yourself the liberty of "skimming" through a certain section! A liberty not granted in the audio book world. This used to be one of my all time favs, but I should probably read it again to see if it still ranks up there or if I remember through the nostalgic haze of books I consumed in h.s.