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The Book of Jonah

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3.17  ·  Rating Details  ·  722 Ratings  ·  155 Reviews
A major literary debut, an epic tale of love, failure, and unexpected faith set in New York, Amsterdam, and Las Vegas

The modern-day Jonah at the center of Joshua Max Feldman's brilliantly conceived retelling of the book of Jonah is a young Manhattan lawyer named Jonah Jacobstein. He's a lucky man: healthy and handsome, with two beautiful women ready to spend the rest of th
...more
Hardcover, 337 pages
Published February 4th 2014 by Henry Holt and Co. (first published January 21st 2014)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,405)
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David
Apr 29, 2014 David rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, religion, humor
In this novel, Jonah is a Jewish corporate lawyer in New York City, who is just about to be promoted to partner. All he has to do is defend a giant pharmaceutical company from patent infringement. He guesses that the company stole the formula from a small startup company, but will probably win the case by "out-lawyering" it. Meanwhile, Jonah juggles his life between two girlfriends, a serious one and a not-so-serious one.

Jonah sees a couple of visions, and struggles with their meaning. One day h
...more
switterbug (Betsey)
Jan 20, 2014 switterbug (Betsey) rated it it was ok
A modern retelling of the Old Testament's book of Jonah, as well as a second text, that of the widow Judith who decapitated the Assyrian General Holofernes, are the thrust of Max Feldman's story of a young Jewish corporate lawyer climbing to the top of the ladder with an empty soul and a divided heart. Jonah Jacobstein has two beautiful girlfriends devoted to him, and a law firm ready to hand him a meteoric rise to success by doing their dirty work. Jacob is ready to choose one woman and leap in ...more
Sub_zero
May 05, 2015 Sub_zero rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reto-2015
Sobrevivir en un mundo dominado por la avidez, la ambición sin escrúpulos y la flagrante ausencia de ética laboral es un proceso que podría explicarse sin recurrir a ninguna analogía bíblica. Sin embargo, el joven escritor norteamericano Joshua Max Feldman demuestra entre las páginas de El libro de Jonah, su debut como novelista, que dicho recurso resulta en última instancia tan interesante como apropiado. Feldman no solo reinventa en su libro las bases de una historia que, por ser de sobra cono ...more
jordan
Jan 07, 2014 jordan rated it liked it
A first novel has a lot in common with meeting someone at a party: introductory information (context, clothes, blurbs) tend towards the shallow, first impressions carry a lot of weight, but it takes a while to settle if this is someone you’d ever want to speak to again (or, in the case of a novel, something you’d like to keep reading). Joshua Max Feldman’s “The Book of Jonah” comes with a lovely cover and blurbs sure to catch attention and an ambitious concept. In terms of first impressions, he ...more
Suzanne Moore
Making the connection to the book of Jonah was sort of a stretch. I see how maybe Feldman was trying to compare Vegas to Nineveh. Jonah Jacobson, the main character, finds himself convicted by a Hasdic Jew he meets on a Subway. Jonah starts having visions, and this sort of reminded me the dreams biblical Jonah has. When biblical Jonah was thrown overboard, to calm the seas, this sort of reminded me of Jonah Jacobson's expulsion from his law firm. I was also thinking about Matisyahu's Hanukkah So ...more
Ron Charles
Feb 13, 2014 Ron Charles rated it liked it
In 2001, Nick Hornby published a discomforting novel called “How to Be Good.” It’s about a man who upends his life by deciding that he will always do what’s right. “Who could live with that?” Hornby asks. Call it the curse of extravagant virtue. Our orderly lives depend upon a certain degree of moral nearsightedness, our ability to moderate the demands of conscience, to ignore the fathomless needs of others much of the time. Lose that and you become a kind of ethical freak, clad in self-righteou ...more
Derek
Aug 13, 2014 Derek rated it did not like it
At first I was on board for this book, a modern retelling of a biblical tale that explores life and faith and meaning. Then 9/11 happened. No, in the story. At that point everything came into stark relief and I became increasingly more frustrated with the whole endeavor. The entire book feels like a rough draft: just a lot of ideas being thrown around with little regard to character or coherent story. Not to mention, a couple of philosophical moments involving a stoner and a priest that I guess ...more
Susan Jacoby
"The Book of Jonah" seems like Christian bookstore fiction with cool, edgy sex and swearing.Which is a bummer because the concept of a modern day retelling of Jonah fascinated me. However, after setting aside the clumsy, uneven way the book tried to echo the biblical story, I attempted to read the novel on its own terms: young high flyer stopped short in his tracks by apparent brush with the supernatural. Nope.The goal then became to satisfy my curiosity about how a parallel storyline would be w ...more
Literary
Feb 19, 2014 Literary rated it it was ok
Charlene's Review:

Jonah Jacobstein is a successful lawyer, living the good life in New York. After running into an Hasidic Jew who speaks to him about the biblical Jonah, he starts to have visions. As he tumbles farther and farther into his visions, Jonah loses everything in a search for something far outside himself.

In all honesty, I struggled with this novel. It seemed a little slow, and I had a hard time connecting with Jonah at first. The premise was good, and it was as much humorous as it w
...more
Bonnie
Feb 16, 2014 Bonnie rated it it was amazing
The plot is based on the story of Jonah from the Bible where God asks Jonah to go preach the gospel in Nineveh. Jonah found this order unbearable because not only was Nineveh known for its wickedness, but it was also the capital of the Assyrian empire, one of Israel's fiercest enemies. Instead, Jonah went down to the seaport of Joppa and booked passage on a ship to Tarshish, heading directly away from Nineveh and running away from God. God sends a great storm that swaps the boat he in on and he ...more
Jessica
Dec 20, 2013 Jessica rated it it was ok
When I read what this book was about, I was really interested in the concept. A modern day tale spun around the story of Jonah in the Bible? Ok, I'll bite.

At the onset, I was interested, but it fizzled rather quickly.

For example: I was curious how they would incorporate the "big fish" capacity- disappointed.

Jonah's arc as a person- Not that much parallel to the story in question after he loses everything.

And the question that kept me keep reading even when I didn't want to- How was the story of
...more
Porter Sprigg
Mar 26, 2016 Porter Sprigg rated it it was ok
This book deals with the emptiness that can derive from the worship of personal success and pleasure. It tries to demonstrate that God is omnipresent with people even in the midst of their depravity and shows that redemption is possible for anyone. Although the message is ultimately a positive one, this book left a really bad taste in my mouth. The book is full of sex scenes that may seem important to character development but are ultimately repetitive and extreme. Also, the main character is so ...more
Jeff Raymond
Retellings of classic/historic stories can always be hit and miss, especially when they're Biblical retellings that are both based on somewhat short texts and when the subject of the text is basically known for one key plot point popularly. If you're someone who isn't familiar with the details of the Jonah story in the Bible, you'll probably spend most of this story wondering what, exactly, the whale is supposed to be.

Anyway, one plotline is Jonah, a lawyer in New York who's career trajectory is
...more
The Barefoot Reviewer
Dec 30, 2013 The Barefoot Reviewer rated it really liked it
As usual I received this book for free for the purposes of review. Unfortunately I can't seem to determine exactly from whom. Whover the source of this unknown beneficence, I give my candid thoughts below.

Having read this, would I pay money for it? Probably not, but I'm on the fence.

This is a bifurcated narrative told from the perspective of two people with rather tragic lives. The story flips back and forth between the two the whole way until... well, in the interest of avoiding spoilers I'll
...more
Tova Ross
Sep 27, 2014 Tova Ross rated it it was amazing
I thought it was brilliant. Best anti-hero hero in a long time, and super sharp writing.
Alex Marshall
Aug 06, 2015 Alex Marshall rated it really liked it
Contrary to many of the reviews I've read I actually thought this got stronger as it went along. Feared from the start it would be just another 'mid-life crisis in the city' story and I'd only finish it so I didn't feel like I'd wasted my time reading the first 50 pages, but the pacing and characters were what actually kept me going and I thought the ending was great. Googled it afterwards and saw it was getting a lot of praise in Jewish circles. I'm not Jewish. Don't know what that says about m ...more
Lphoenix
Jun 09, 2014 Lphoenix rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
More than halfway through with this, and have developed a querulous, cranky feeling about the story, the uneven writing displayed, and especially the proofreading and content errors that have me re-reading sentences repeatedly, only to confirm that yeah, a word's simply been left out, or yeah, that actually makes no sense. This book screams for the firm hand of an editor--the kind of editor there used to be, who would guide a new author, show where what he wrote simply made no sense, or was clic ...more
Sandy H
Mar 11, 2014 Sandy H rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
I started out mostly engaged. I understand what the author is trying to do with Jonah and Judith, but in the end, they're mostly just unlikable characters and I really struggled to have any sort of emotional connection with either of them. I am very familiar with the biblical stories he's basing this novel on and while I could appreciate from an objective sense what the author was trying to do, as a novel, I just couldn't get into it. I like the first third of the book but got bogged down in the ...more
Jill Botkin
Sep 22, 2014 Jill Botkin rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book as a Goodreads first-reads winner.
I requested to read it book because I was interested in how the biblical story of Jonah would be transferred into a modern story. After finishing the book, I don't feel like it really achieved that end. The main character is named Jonah and he has some strange visions that he eventually determines can only have been sent by God but I really didn't feel like there were any other parallels to the biblical story. The book is pretty good and hel
...more
Chloé
Apr 05, 2014 Chloé rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads
**I received it via First Reads**

Maybe it is because I'm an atheist and did not get many biblical references, but this book did not appeal to me at all. I found the writing good- not great- and the characters were of no particular interest. I did not relate to this novel in any way. It is not bad, simply not my cup of tea...
Mike Cuthbert
Apr 22, 2015 Mike Cuthbert rated it really liked it
Jonah Jacobstein seems to have it all: two beautiful women in love with him, a promising career as a lawyer in Manhattan and youth. But Jonah’s essential character, which is allergic to making choices, betrays him and soon he is left drifting in Europe and New York, trying to pick up at least random pieces of what is left of his life. Engaged to Sylvia, he has been maintaining a relationship with Zoey for a couple of years and is torn between them. Sylvia breaks up with him by using a stapler on ...more
Ashley
May 16, 2014 Ashley rated it really liked it
The Book of Jonah by Joshua Max Feldman is a modern-day retelling of the Biblical story of Jonah. For those unfamiliar with the story of Jonah a very brief summary – Jonah disobeys an order from God and attempts to flee by boarding a ship and setting sail in the exact opposite direction of the land where God had ordered him to go. God sent a storm which nearly destroyed the ship but Jonah was cast overboard after being determined to be responsible for the punishment. Instead of drowning Jonah wa ...more
Kerfe
May 05, 2014 Kerfe rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads, fiction
I looked through my 3-star fiction reviews and one word jumped out at me: predictable. Cliché, made-for-TV-movie, corny--they all appear too. But "predictable" seems to be the key. And this book? Yes it is.

Stereotypes exist for a reason; there's a grain of truth, sometimes even a full cup of truth, there. OK, the world is shallow. Money talks. Sincerity and trust are hard to come by. But even the most obnoxious and annoying over-achievers have parts of them, details and distinctions, that don't
...more
Joseph Richardson
Mar 11, 2014 Joseph Richardson rated it liked it
Note: May contain spoilers. Proceed with caution.

Looking back, there isn’t a single adjective one could use to describe Joshua Max Feldman’s debut novel, The Book of Jonah. At times, the tale being told is entertaining, engaging, and suspenseful. However, there are other instances where the writing comes off as boring, uninspired, and cliched (particularly in the narrative’s closing moments). It is this aspect alone that makes The Book of Jonah such a unique experience. As I read those final sen
...more
Alice  Heiserman
Mar 29, 2014 Alice Heiserman rated it it was amazing
The premise of this book was interesting. One NY lawyer is leading a life that will make him partner in a major law firm and has a girlfriend (who is gorgeous but who he can't really stand but who represents status) when he has a vision similar to that of the biblical Jonah and he realizes the superficiality of his life and goals and the lies and pretenses he has been holding. Simultaneously, the female protagonist whose parents were killed on 9/11 on their way to visit her in an Ivy League Scho ...more
Olivia
Mar 31, 2014 Olivia rated it liked it
This book caught my eye from the new release shelf at the library. It looked interesting and I wasn't disappointed. In fact, I had a hard time putting it down. Jonah is a successful corporate lawyer in New York City who is happy to be living a life full of the pleasures of Babylon. He suddenly starts receiving unwelcome visions that force him out of his comfortable egocentricity. His life is completely dismantled by his attempts to banish the visions. The crash course he has set himself on fina ...more
Corey
Sep 21, 2014 Corey rated it liked it
Shelves: jewish
Emmm… I really wanted to like this book a lot more than I did… not sure why. The premise was quite original – a modern-day retelling of the biblical story of Jonah that got swallowed by the whale. Many aspects of the main characters, Jonah and Judith, their lives and personalities were realistic and recognizable. The book was well-written but, ultimately, some parts of the plot made no sense to me and I didn’t get the motivations for the characters’ actions or the POINT of the book. I felt like ...more
Lauren Nisbet
Apr 08, 2015 Lauren Nisbet rated it liked it
The idea of ‘right vs. wrong’ is the basis of most fiction, and even most non-fiction for that matter. There are good characters and bad characters, who are defined not only by their actions, but by their intentions and their values. It’s pretty easy to look at a story and identify the hero and the villain, the one who treats people well, who has a noble cause, who puts others before him/herself, versus the one who is basically just an asshole. Sometimes the asshole has redeeming qualities or an ...more
Shirley Freeman
This modern day Jonah is living life in the fast lane. He's a high powered New York lawyer with a high-powered education and high powered friends. He's got an 'appropriate' girlfriend and an 'inappropriate' mistress. I found it exhausting to read about his workaholic, alcohol and drug enhanced, playboy life. But non-religious, Jewish, Jonah began to have visions and his train-wreck of a life came crashing down (the belly of the whale). As with Jonah's Biblical namesake, no matter how far he trie ...more
Josh
Apr 03, 2016 Josh rated it liked it
A corporate lawyer becomes an instrument of God meant to save a woman from her darker side. This book seems like it should be more expansive, but feels more introspective and this stifles itself from a broader reach. I understand that this a personal journey, but I was promised something more, and just the implications of this being a modern "Jonah and the whale" made me expect the payoff to be expansive and universal. The mindset of the main character, Jonah, does feel natural, and his various ...more
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Joshua Max Feldman is a writer of fiction and plays. Born and raised in Amherst, Massachusetts, he has lived in England, New York, and Switzerland. He currently resides in south Florida. THE BOOK OF JONAH, his first novel, will be published February 4th, 2014 by Henry Holt, and is currently available for preorder.
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“...this was false hope - a sustaining myth between them. They didn't struggle on account of a failure to find the solution to their problems: There was not some mode of togetherness that...would make him feel that her love had depth and warmth, that she wanted to be with him and not a version of him that she might fashion. Their problems were a fact of their togetherness itself.” 1 likes
“said such things to her seemed so much to appreciate” 0 likes
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