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Bearing the Body

3.25 of 5 stars 3.25  ·  rating details  ·  172 ratings  ·  35 reviews

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

At the start of Bearing the Body, Nathan Mirsky learns that his older brother has died in San Francisco, apparently murdered after years of aimlessness. On the spur of the moment, Nathan leaves his job as a medical resident and heads west from Boston to learn what he can about Daniel's death. His father, Sol--a quiet, embittered H

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Paperback, 304 pages
Published November 25th 2008 by Picador (first published 2007)
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Community Reviews

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Kristine Brancolini
I read Bearing the Body for my Jewish Book Group. Last Sunday, about 30 of us met with the director of our Jewish Studies Program, who is also a professor of English literature, to discuss the book. Many people had a strong reaction to it -- positive and negative. Obviously, I occupy the positive camp but I believe that after the discussion, some who really didn't like the book came to admire it.

Bearing the Body is Ehud Havazelet's third book and first novel. He spent ten years writing it. And
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Lorri
Bearing the Body, by Ehud Havazelet, is an intense look at family dynamics and the after-effects of the Holocaust in relation to the silence of the survivors, survivors trying to quietly assimilate in a new environment. Often times the events of the past are so horrific and traumatic, that they are difficult for one to bear. Havazelet has a deep comprehension of this.

Dysfunction reigns, and rains, heavily, through the clouds of family dynamics. Silence resounds loudly, echoing fragments of the p
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Paola
Questo libro lo comprai forse più di un anno fa in una scampagnata libresca a Varese. Non mi ricordavo nemmeno di averlo. Poi poche sere fa il titolo accalappia, quali configurazioni associative si siano messe in atto restano per il momento inconsce, e magari continueranno a restarlo. Credo che il libro lo comprai perché l’autore, a me allora sconosciuto, é israeliano e io nutro interesse per la letteratura israeliana.
La scrittura é molto densa, pastosa, immaginifica, la storia é di quelle che s
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Brittany
It took me over a month to get through this book, and for good reason. It did not flow smoothly at all. The plot synopsis mentioned that the main character's father, Sol, is a Holocaust survivor, and I expected that to come into play much more in the novel. There was one incredibly haunting and painfully vivid passage to read of Sol's memories from a camp near the end of the novel that definitely moved me.

However, most of the rest of the book was unenjoyable. The characters all seemed stilted a
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Naomi
2.5 stars, really. The book had flashes of brilliance in the writing, and the premise of the story-- an estranged brother/son who had become a drug addict found murdered, the remaining son and father going out to collect the remains-- had great potential, but for me the book fell short. I found the characters rather two dimensional, and none likable. I have nothing against unlikable characters (Chekhov and Nabokov come to mind), but even so, I have to have some reason to commit to them, to follo ...more
Ruth
What does a father do when his memories, his youth, are too horrendous to share with his sons? When in order to function, to take care of the physical needs of his family he must shut off his past behind walls of steely resolve? When shutting off that past also means he shuts off any kind of expression of love and caring leaving him with only an endless reserve of anger? And what of the sons? Which would be more terrible for them, the feeling that their father does not love them or the nightmare ...more
Alison
Oct 29, 2008 Alison rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Alison by: Oregon Book Awards
I love books that make me change my mind about characters. I love stories in which good and evil sit side by side in people. I like to read books that explore relationships and families in all their clumsiness and imperfection. I also have a soft spot for stories that accurately portray the inner world of children. So, yes, I loved this book.
Sometimes I wanted the men in Ehud's novel to be more likable, and I couldn't help but wish that they would tell each other the secrets we, the readers, kne
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Jenny
I really really enjoyed this book. Although "enjoyed" might not be the proper way to describe such a sad novel. Each character has suffered through loss, heartache, and the confusion of their past. The story shows how if you don't talk about your past or what is on your mind it can hurt you and the people you love. As you go through life and the simplest things remind you of loss, but if you aren't willing to talk about it then no one can understand you or get close to you. How a pile of shoes c ...more
Karl
This is a very sad book. The characters are all hopelessly miserable. The writing is very, very good, but I found that I could not read too much at a time because I had to come up for air, out from the despairing darkness. The atmosphere is extremely well developed, details, thoughts, emotions, are all there. I found it slightly irritating that the author would change the place, or the time, or the viewpoint, without any clear clues, so it would sometimes be a couple of paragraphs before I worke ...more
Mbreaden
I'm torn between two stars and three. I just can't can't can't stand Sol (the father character). I've read too too too many books with the delightfully-childlike-rapidly-deteriorating-distant father to find the character of this one original.

On the other hand, I'm very interested in the story of the two brothers, Daniel and Nathan, and I think that both of them are depicted pretty realistically. The girlfriend of Daniel, Abby, is also pretty interesting.

His writing style is pretty good, too.


In c
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Lee
I debated between 2 and 3 stars on this one. I guess there's a sad inevitability that the holocaust survivor parents want the All American wonderful life for their two sons, yet by keeping their family history from the kids, they've done them a huge disservice and don't understand the boys' lack of humanity in actions later in their life. It's so tragic, these stories about fathers and sons especially not being open and honest with each other to the detriment of both sides.
Caren
Havazelet has a pronounced literary tic: he repeatedly creates an ambiguous situation using indirect references and a mystifying lack of pronouns .... only to neatly resolve said situation a chapter or two later. It happened so many times that I finally gave up in surrender. That said, there is nothing about the family dynamic that begs credulity.
Sabina Chen
Heartbreaking and beautiful. Holocaust survivors and the silence before their offspring and the echoes of wounds that are passed from one generation to another. It's deeply felt and compassionate.

My favorite line: "Didn't they know? Didn't they know that the only sins you will not be forgiven are the ones you commit against yourself?"
Kristen Martin
The writing was beautiful, but overall, I was bored. And most of the book took place in San Francisco, which the author couldn't manage to get right in terms of the weather. The characters were constantly complaining about the heat, but then mentioning the fog in the same paragraph, and I found that distracting.
Marguerite
This had some promise, but fell short. The changing points of view lost me a few times and a lot of effort has been made on less interesting parts of the story. I couldn't wait to finish, but not in a good way. I just wanted the experience to be over.
Jano Cohen
Well written, but a bit tedious. Too much endless suffering. However, interesting topic about survivors of holocaust who have children who can't manage to have successful intimate relationships and get into substance abuse.
Jean
A book about a family that is slow to learn what family should be about. Father is a holocaust survivor that passes his view of life to his sons. Characters very well portrayed and all deeply troubled.
Ric
Tender and full of great characters. Characters that move you and are so deply human you swear you watching them through the window of your house.
Beckydham
I didn't dislike the book, and it carried along fine. But it felt kind of worn-out also, like I've read versions of it before.
Lisa
Insightful and interesting look into the world of a young Jewish man, his father and the brother he has to discover and bury.
Debbie
kind of hard to get through, it's so intense. amazing writing, characters, not for the faint of heart.
Margot
A lot of the reviewers used the word "tedious" and that sums it up for me. A book of huge misopportunity.
Timothy OConnor
Not recommended. Too many dysfunctional characters with little resolution by the end of the novel.
Jennb33 Brown
Having a hard time getting into this entirely, although I see glimmers of potential. Stay tuned.
Bostian
Jun 21, 2008 Bostian is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
First published novel by the most important writing professor from my university days.
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this was a recommendation from somewhere. tried to read it, but the writing was too bland
Andrea
As some of you know, I really liked this book that was recently published.
Jill
Dec 29, 2008 Jill marked it as to-read
Another mysterious selection for our "New in Paperback" display.
A.Jay Wagner
Bearing the Body: A Novel by Ehud Havazelet (2007)
David
Heartfelt, fairly grim novel. Worth it, though.
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Havazalet was born in Jerusalem, Israel. His father, Meir Havazalet, a rabbi and professor at Yeshiva University emigrated to the United States in 1957. He graduated from Columbia University in 1977, and received an M.F.A at the University of Iowa Writers Workshop in 1984. He became a Jones Lecturer at Stanford University, from 1985 to 1989, and a Wallace Stegner Fellow. He taught creative writing ...more
More about Ehud Havazelet...
Like Never Before What is It Then Between Us?: Stories De Chair Et De Cendre: Roman The Best American Short Stories 2011 Tin House: Summer Issue 2008

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