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Kaaterskill Falls

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3.65  ·  Rating Details ·  2,123 Ratings  ·  196 Reviews
In the summer of '76, the Shulmans and the Melishes migrate to Kaaterskill, the tiny town in upstate New York where Orthodox Jews and Yankee year-rounders live side by side from June through August.

Elizabeth Shulman, a devout follower of Rav Elijah Kirshner and the mother of five daughters, is restless. She needs a project of her own, outside her family and her cloistered
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Paperback, 336 pages
Published August 10th 1999 by Dial Press Trade Paperback (first published August 10th 1998)
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Elyse
Aug 30, 2012 Elyse rated it really liked it
Update: Kindle $1.99 special. This is an older book....but one of Allegra Goodman's great reads. I just bought it myself --and will now give my physical copy away to a friend. If 'Sara'? --Susan? Connie? Mary? others? want to consider this book for our next buddy read, I'd love to re-read this one.
-The kindle download is a good deal today.
........."Kasterskill Falls" is the more interesting story than the Allegra's new release, "The Chalk Artist", in my personal opinion.

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Fabian
Sep 12, 2008 Fabian rated it really liked it
Recommended to Fabian by: Liana and EW
This "Our Town" was constructed with great care & written very... simplistically. Which baffles considering how organic the characters come off as and how poetic the narrative is.

The only source of symbolism is wallpaper and house panels with floral motifs. That's it. Everything else comes from the simple actions and thoughts of the 20+ characters who inhabit the titular town on the outskirts of NYC. The jewish summer retreat of magnificent beauty is only a backdrop to the people who both su
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Elizabeth
Feb 07, 2016 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed this even more the second time around. This story about a small Jewish Orthodox community is remarkable. It is closely observed and breaks my heart with its many details about the human condition.

Recommended.
jo
Sep 07, 2008 jo rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who like the little things
i'm astounded that this is a first novel. i'm astounded that, while writing a first novel, allegra goodman didn't feel any pressure to thicken the plot and jack up the sentimentality. i'm astounded that she chose as the topic of her first novel a strict orthodox community in which nothing much happens except the tiny movements that make up life for most of us most days. and i'm astounded that so many people read and loved this novel.

this seems such a non-commercial novel. there is no glossary at
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Sharon
Feb 10, 2011 Sharon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Started slow and boring, but I read it since it was for our book club. Got better as I read further, but I ended up angry at the narrow, selfish, chauvinistic, patriarchal attitude of the leaders of that community-- and of many of the men who flowed so blindly. As I once heard, the only difference between oppressed and oppressor is opportunity and that certainly was evident in this community. Escaping from Germany prior to Kristallnacht, the Rav became as controlling and obsessed with HIS ideas ...more
Carla
May 17, 2011 Carla rated it liked it
Allegra Goodman invites the reader into a self-contained Orthodox summer community in the Adirondacks. This is a quiet novel that involves you in a special sect devoted to its ancient Rabbi and literal interpretations of the Torah. I learned a great deal about Jewish ritual and esoteric holidays. However, the heart of the novel is found within the individual characters and their different adaptations to the community and its ideals. I liked the author's respect for her characters and her appreci ...more
Liz green
Jun 01, 2009 Liz green rated it it was ok
I agree with Brecken in that Kaaterskill Falls is slow starting, mostly due to an over abundance of characters, which is also its greatest weakness. It is difficult to connect to the characters, and while they each have different motivations and characteristics they do not seem to become individuals. The strength of the novel is in its intriguing themes: community, obedience, dedication, abuse of power, the word, trials of faith, comparing self to others, and family. There are beautiful passages ...more
Anna
Sep 11, 2010 Anna rated it it was ok
This book actually contains some really beautiful writing. So why 2 stars? I just couldn't connect with the characters. Honestly, I felt a little overwhelmed by the number of them and couldn't seem to keep them straight. An earlier reviewer said the book was slow to start... I must agree. I forced myself to keep going. The beautiful writing is the reason it got two stars from me. It is too bad... I had high hopes.
Kate
Aug 11, 2008 Kate rated it it was amazing
I LOVED this book and was very sad when it came to an end. I read Intuition by Allegra Goodman first. Two very different reads. While I liked Intuition well enough, I liked this one even better because of Goodman's arrow-sharp read of her characters' thoughts and feelings. I love a book that delves into the characters' inner lives, but with restraint and precision. I'm not explaining why I like this book so much very clearly, but I highly recommend it.
Erika Dreifus
May 01, 2017 Erika Dreifus rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jewish-lit
I *loved* this book. Just posted a review over on the Fig Tree Books blog, for a series spotlighting past winners of the Edward Lewis Wallant Award: http://bit.ly/2qzRBoS.
Katherine
Oct 02, 2010 Katherine rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
“ ‘If I don’t work with large animals, I want to expose social injustice’” (42).
“Old voices that creaked and swung in rhythm, their long phrases like the screen door on the bungalow, closing slowly, partway, a little more, and then, with a long sigh, thumping shut” (52).
"But in his daily studies he still strives to understand, identify, take a text to heart, to reach through the centuries of commentary, those layers of response, and grasp a meaning that is strong, believable. And when it happens
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LM
Jun 21, 2012 LM rated it it was amazing
This was just lovely. Every summer, Brooklyn empties as many of the Jews in my community go upstate to
bungalow colonies for the summer. Having only been to two colonies as a guest I can best describe these places as Camp Mather family camp near Yosemite, except of course more orthodox, and totally different.
Anyway this book is set in the mid '70's and centers around the members of a colony or camp. In
Kaaterskill Falls though the members are not all religious or religious in the same way as co
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Amy
Jun 22, 2007 Amy rated it liked it
Shelves: judaism
This was interestng story that really didn't do anything much in terms of external plot. Most of the book takes place in the minds of the characters, mostly Orthodox jews, who are summering in Upstate New York. It offers a slice of life into a world that others might not ever see or know exists. The parts with the women were the most interesting to me and how the women followed strict laws that didn't really involve them. I wanted to see more happen, like a romance between the teenagers or the s ...more
Susan
May 28, 2011 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I look for National Book Award winners/finalists and Kaaterskill Falls did not disappoint me. What a wonderful look at a closed Orthodox community with all the well-developed characters who migrate from NYC to the Catskill Mtns. for the summer. I especially enjoyed the friendship of Jewish teenager Renee and her Syrian, free-spirited friend, Stephanie; I could not say the same for Renee's mother who did not believe in assimilation. Yet another example of the young showing us how to get along wi ...more
David
Dec 19, 2010 David rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
This novel is a portrait of a group of Jews connected to a community of orthodox Orthodox Jews who live in Washington Heights, Manhattan, New York, with a summer community in the Catskills. There is no one central character, and less a plot than a series of stories, none so dramatic in itself. However, the writing is excellent and the layers of meaning thick. The characters are neither romanticized nor turned into emotional talismans.

A good read for a quiet, rainy day, which is when I read it.

B
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Heidi
Jun 01, 2008 Heidi rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Elena C.
I've read a couple of books by Allegra Goodman so far, and have liked them both, but this book was the superior of the two. It centers around a community of orthodox Jews who summer in Upstate New York. And that is pretty much it. Things are resolved, or are not; life-changing moments happen, or don't. Just as in real life. Nothing strange or outrageous occurs -- it is just the story of the lives of a few people that we get to know over the course of the book, a beautiful portrait of a community ...more
Ann
Apr 06, 2008 Ann rated it it was amazing
I honestly could not put this book down. I must have been up most of the night reading it, to the annoyance of my husband. When I finished I gave it to him and then he understood. I love Allegra Goodman, but this is far and away her best. An astonishing portrayal of a world so close and yet so far apart; an even more astonishing portrayal of characters so real I felt I might meet them at any moment.
Brecken Cook
May 11, 2009 Brecken Cook rated it liked it
Kaaterskill Falls is slow starting, mostly due to an over abundance of characters, which is also its greatest weakness. It is difficult to connect to the characters, and while they each have different motivations and characteristics they do not seem to become individuals. The strength of the novel is in its intriguing themes: community, obedience, dedication, abuse of power, the word, trials of faith, comparing self to others, and family. There are beautiful passages, and interesting conflict.
Anita
Mar 31, 2011 Anita rated it really liked it
After reading THE COOKBOOK COLLECTOR, which I loved, I wanted to go back and read Allegra Goodman's earlier works. Though very different, Kaaterskill Falls does not disappoint. Allegra Goodman is one of those authors who the reader will follow anywhere. A wonderful book, very rich and poignant.
David Jay
Sep 18, 2007 David Jay rated it really liked it
The Kirschners are a sect of Orthodox Jews who live in Washington Heights and summer in Kaaterskill Falls. The time is mid to late 1970s. Engrossing, with richly drawn, memorable characters. Beautifully written.
Stella
May 24, 2017 Stella rated it really liked it
Really more like 3.5- very character driven, densely written book about a small Jewish community that summers in upstate New York. Very little plot as you are introduced to the various characters and their thoughts and desires. At the beginning I had a hard time keeping up with everyone. I was not eager to read, but was glad when I picked it up.
daintymiss1957
May 11, 2017 daintymiss1957 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such artistic layering of personalities

Wonderful read. Relaxing, interesting. Excellent story telling. Beautiful use of the English language. Nice Hebrew verses too. Highly recommended. Read it!
Pam
May 20, 2017 Pam rated it liked it
It was interesting. I normally read books that have more of a plot. This was a slice of life about a society I knew little about, despite the fact it was set in my home state around the time I was in high school.
Merrilee
May 07, 2017 Merrilee rated it really liked it
Multiple characters' lives, dreams and heartaches are woven into this story of a small town community. The descriptions of the place and the development of characters are first rate. I learned so much about Jewish customs and faith.
Carmen
May 04, 2017 Carmen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Alice Nighswonger, Jody McCracken
Recommended to Carmen by: Bookbud sale, & 1998 National Book Awards short list
Enjoyed learning about the Jewish culture in New York! Good story! I liked that the characters seemed to learn and make changes in their lives. A great change from some I've read this year!
Janeal
Mar 17, 2017 Janeal rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this book. The writing is very rich and I related to the characters. I also learned a lot about Jewish culture and some of the more orthodox sects and practices. It was very interesting.

I couldn't get this book on audiobook so I ordered it online and read it for book club. I forgot how enjoyable it is to hold a book in your hand and read it cover to cover. I dog-eared pages that I wanted to remember quotes from. It reminded that I love to read and there is something so relaxing a
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Patrick
Sep 01, 2010 Patrick rated it it was ok
I give this book a 2.5 stars because although the writing was okay and the story line was quite bland, the characters in the book were pretty good.

The book is about a Hasidic community in NYC which revolves around this learned Rav. This fictional account fills more like an ethnographic look into Jews and Hasidic Jews specifically. It celebrates inner conflict but external consistency.

The character developments that I particularly enjoy was that of Elizabeth vs the Rav Isaiah. Elizabeth is a re
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Mimi
Mar 05, 2010 Mimi rated it liked it
After reading both KAATERSKILL FALLS and PARADISE PARK, I feel that Ms. Goodman's talent lies in masterful characterization. From the lost yet loveable Sharon Speigelman of PARADISE PARK to Elizabeth Schulman and the surrounding Kaaterskill community, the characters are always interesting, always real!

KAATERSKILL FALLS is the story of a community of Orthodox Jews who migrate between Washington Heights (Brooklyn) and Kaaterskill Falls, an Upstate NY community, in the summer. This novel deals with
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Dara
May 09, 2013 Dara rated it liked it
“In the summer of '76, the Shulmans and the Melishes migrate to Kaaterskill, the tiny town in upstate New York where Orthodox Jews and Yankee year-rounders live side by side from June through August. Elizabeth Shulman, a devout follower of Rav Elijah Kirshner and the mother of five daughters, is restless. She needs a project of her own, outside her family and her cloistered community. Across the street, Andras Melish is drawn to Kaaterskill by his adoring older sisters, bound to him by their los ...more
Wendy
Nov 08, 2013 Wendy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Goodman is a good writer: she makes you feel as if you're in the setting she describes, and she knows how to pick the right words so that, despite the limited amount of time you're with a particular character, some of them have quite a bit of depth.
On the other hand, the novel is extremely jumpy and virtually plotless. I don't care for the majority of the characters, partly, I think, because many of them are so bland, something of stereotypes, or not even quite that deep. They're just kind of t
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Can someone please explain the ending? 3 13 Mar 08, 2016 07:47AM  
Madison Mega-Mara...: Kaaterskill Falls 1 3 Dec 31, 2012 02:24PM  
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Hello, Good Readers! It's a pleasure to meet you!

I was born in Brooklyn, but I grew up in Honolulu. When I was a seven year old living in Hawaii, I aspired to become a novelist--but I began by writing poetry and short stories.

In high school and college I focused on short stories and in June, 1986, I published my first in "Commentary." My first book was a collection of short stories, "Total Immersi
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