Review: The Chosen by Chaim Potok

Title: The Chosen

Author: Chaim Potok

Publisher: Fawcett Crest Books

Genre: fiction

Source: Book Outlet (or Thriftbooks)

Publication Date: 1967

After a bad meeting over a baseball game, Reuven Malther and Danny Saunders become the best of friends. Both boys are Jewish, but Danny is from a Hasidic sect. His father is not just a rabbi, but a tzaddik, a righteous person to be revered. Danny knows that one day he’ll take his father’s place and doesn’t want to. Brilliant and inquisitive, he’s interested in psychology and the human mind. He and Reuven grow together spiritually and emotionally, learning to navigate the ever changing world around them.

A week ago, I honestly thought I was going to DNF this book. It just wasn’t working for me. But then, I saw down in the middle of the day, instead of right before bed, and gave it another chance. I’m really glad I did.

Danny and Reuven meet during a baseball game between their schools.Danny, one of the only good players on his team, hits a ball that Revuen stops with his face, sending him to the hospital. I’ll tell you, that game almost made me stop reading. I cannot stand poor sports, and everyone on Danny’s team was one. It really ticked me off and made me hate everything, but once I got past it, things took a turn. Danny turned out to be a sensitive, thoughtful boy with a lot of emotional maturity (which was surprising considering his upbringing). Revuen was very thoughtful and kind, too. He and Danny formed a deep connection and I liked watching it grow.

The one place I felt the book was a little week was the style. There was a lot of summarizing what was going on instead of showing. There were pages where the dialogue was described, but not directly spoken. A lot of stuff was repeated, as well. Or, Reuven would talk to his father, who’d stop every few lines to ask if Reuven was tired and if the father should stop. It made thing unnecessarily long. However, I think it’s a time period thing. I haven’t read a lot of books from the sixties (except Rosemary’s Baby) and it might just be how books were written then. Coming from a modern view, it was a little tedious.

But, man, did it pack and emotional punch. This book takes place at the tail end of World War II. The scenes of both fathers discovering what happened to the Jews in Europe during the Holocaust was gut-wrenching. Trying to imagine what they felt… It was hard.

I was very pleased with the ending. It took me by surprise, but in a good way. It made me feel warm to a character I was cold to the entirety of the book. I still don’t like him, but I like him better than I did.

This is a tough one. Yes, I recommend it, because it’s a very good book. However, unless you’re interested in Jewish history and religion and the different sects, you might not be interested in it. But, at its heart, it’s the story of friendship and how friendships survive in adversity. If that’s your interest, then, yes, you should read it.

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