The Chosen by Chaim Potok

31Oct09

The ChosenThe Chosen is a gripping “coming of age” tale about two Jewish boys. Their common heritage allows them to be friends, but differing interpretations of the requirements of that heritage make the boys a strange pair.

Danny Saunder’s and his families strict adherence to the Hasidic tradition require Danny to wear long ear locks and tassels. Reuven Malter on the other hand might be mistaken for an all-American New Yorker if it weren’t for his clearly Jewish name and skullcap.

The two boys meet on rather unfriendly terms through a dramatic baseball injury, but with their father’s encouragement the boys become fast friends.

The story chronicles the interplay between the boys’ beliefs and desires and the struggles these cause. Yet, Potok avoids writing a dialectical treatise on which tradition is best or which character is right and should be followed by all Jews; rather, Potok seems to simply present one situation of two Jewish boys and their specific situations and how it leads to particular choices for each character. This is not to say that certain concepts or beliefs of Potok’s cannot be distilled from his writing, but it is to say that it lacks the heavy handed feel of an moral story.

The way Potok uses the gradual dissemination about WWII, the concentration camps, and the fight for a Jewish state to shape and motivate his characters is particularly interesting. I found myself looking at all these events and issues in a very different light as a result of Potok’s treatment.

I remain amazed at Potok’s ability to create deep and believable characters despite their eccentricities (or maybe because of them). If someone were to tell me they were historical figures I would be inclined to believe them despite all my knowledge to the contrary.  Since reading the book I’ve discovered that there is a sequel. Which leaves me a little queasy with fear of the characters being mutilated into flat cartoons with a cheap plot, but I think that the sheer brilliance of the first novel will convince me to try out the sequel as soon as I can find it.

I heartily recommend reading The Chosen and I would definitely give it a 5 out of 5 stars.

(posted by Jessica)

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4 Responses to “The Chosen by Chaim Potok”

  1. 1 Jeff

    Didn’t Chaim Potok write “Number the Stars”? I had to read that book in fifth grade. Welcome to the blog, Jessica… thanks for posting!

  2. 2 jessicaefox

    I think Louis Lowry wrote “Number the Stars.” That’s a good book too.

  3. 3 Jeff

    Ah, you’re right. The book I was trying to think of was “My Name is Asher Lev” which I had to read in college.

  4. 4 jessicaefox

    I just finished that one! I really liked it…that’s my next post actually :-p Did you like it?


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