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The Frozen Rabbi

3.09 of 5 stars 3.09  ·  rating details  ·  706 ratings  ·  186 reviews

And what happens when Bernie Karp, the impressionable fifteen-year-old son of the couple in whose home the rabbi lies frozen, inadvertently thaws out the ancient man? Such are the questions raised in this wickedly funny and ingenious novel by author Steve Stern, who, according to the Washington Post Book World, belongs in the company of such writers as Stanley Elkin, Cynth

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Hardcover, 384 pages
Published May 11th 2010 by Algonquin Books (first published May 2010)
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Tevye the Dairyman and the Railroad Stories by Sholem AleichemThe Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael ChabonThe Slave by Isaac Bashevis SingerShosha by Isaac Bashevis SingerYentl the Yeshiva Boy by Isaac Bashevis Singer
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20th out of 47 books — 29 voters
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147th out of 299 books — 55 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,600)
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Felice
The oldest thing I have in my freezer right now is a 48 count pack of fish sticks I bought in 2007. In the intervening 3 years I have purchased and consumed other fish sticks. I'm not sure why the catch of whatever day it was in 2007 is still in my freezer awaiting an archaeological expedition to make it to the oven. Maybe I just like knowing they are there at the ready? They have survived numerous minor power outages and 2 outages that lasted more than 3 hours. I have to say I'm a little proud ...more
Miles
The Frozen Rabbi, or as I found myself calling it several times a day, "Der Frozener Rebbe", is a great American Jewish story. We might say that the author's subject is the holy and the profane. In the course of this novel there is no doubt that every mystical and divine and folklorish reality is, and is not, utterly real, and that every profanity and lustful desire is, and is not, the ultimate truth. Steve Stern plays with our minds, making the reader believe, mocking his or her belief, making ...more
Adam
This book maintained my interest sufficiently to make me want to read all of it, BUT I would not reccommend it to anyone else.

Briefly, the book follows the fate of a rabbi who becomes frozen into a block of ice somewhere in rural Poland sometime in the late 19th century. He remains frozen in this block whilst it it is transported across Europe, and then the Atlantic, to the USA. There, in the early 21st century, the refrigerator containing the ice-encased rabbi breaks down. The rabbi steps out
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Elaine
Sep 17, 2012 Elaine added it
I disliked this book with a passion and I recommend it to no one. In a nutshell, teenage boy finds frozen rabbi in family freezer, Rabbi from a time long ago, family knew of Rabbi, boy defrosts the rabbi. The book covers, through alternating chapters, the rabbis travels from "Out of body" experiences that resulted in his freezing near a river almost 200+ years ago to his defrost, and the boy's story of coming of age. In the present, the boy thinks the Rabbi will be, well, a Rabbi to him, but ins ...more
yexxo
Schon die erste Seite stimmt darauf ein, was einen mit diesem Buch erwartet: Bernie, 15jähriger Couchpotatoe, findet auf der Suche in der Tiefkühltruhe nach einem Stück Fleisch zur Selbstbefriedigung, einen tiefgefrorenen alten Mann in einem Eisblock. Durch einen Stromausfall unabsichtlich zum Leben erweckt, entpuppt sich der knapp 200 Jahre alte Rabbi als ein überaus geschäftstüchtiger Unternehmer, der sich darauf versteht, die Suche der Menschen nach Glück mit einigem Geschick in klingende Mün ...more
Dan Wickett
A fantastic read - difficult to put down once you get going. Stern's bouncing back and forth between the current day and Bernie Carp and his dealings with the unfrozen rabbi, and the historical journey the rabbi took from his original freezing until he arrived in Bernie's freezer, are masterfully handled.

Stern is an author that cares both about the individual sentence AND the overall story. Absolutely go out and support this author and wonderful publishing house and buy, read and enjoy The Froze
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Corey
Engrossing. Dazzling. Brilliant.
Sherry
Feb 11, 2011 Sherry rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
This book started out slowly. It wasn't until page 130 that I was completely engaged and reading became effortless. I found the ending disappointing. However, the middle of the book was very good. The story goes back and forth between the turn of the 20th century and the turn of the 21st century. A rabbi, frozen in deep meditation, is carted by a family to the new world where he remains in suspended animation until he is thawed by young Bernie Karp whose jewish family migrates to Memphis Tenness ...more
Sara Cat
I'm sort of surprised Steve Stern isn't better known - it's clear he's a quite talented writer, the prose is beautiful at times, and at others captures that modern American ennui/irony beautifully. How can you go wrong with a book that starts with the sentence:

"Sometime during his restless fifteenth year, Bernie Karp discovered in his parents' food freezer - a white-enameled Kelvinator humming in its corner of the basement rumpus room - an old man frozen in a block of ice."

Then it slides immedi
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Amelia
Amazon has never steered me wrong before, until now. And it's not to say that I hated this book, because I didn't. I just had a hard time getting along with it. I kept thinking I should put it down for good and read something else. While the characters are interesting, the plot leaves a lot to be desired. It's like molasses running uphill in the middle of January in New England. The Frozen Rabbi could have been a lot shorter and a lot better. And there are some plot points (that I won't mention ...more
J.A.
I need to see Tennessee. Not as much as I need to visit Virginia, but Memphis is definitely a destination. The Tennessee Titans (my favorite NFL team) play in Nashville, so I would want to get over to the Music City as well (preferably in the fall), but there is something going on in Memphis. At least that’s the impression I get from reading The Frozen Rabbi by Steve Stern, who is from Memphis and now teaches in upstate New York. A (very) good amount of the back story takes place in New York Cit ...more
Randi Reisfeld
You don't have to be Jewish to enjoy The Frozen Rabbi -- but it sure would help. Even more if you know a bissel Yiddish, since it's sprinkled liberally throughout. The highly original premise is what drew me: back in the way olden days in Poland, the head rabbi of the shetl goes to meditate near a body of water. He's in an "out of body" experience when the river overflows, drowns him and freezes, leaving the rabbi encased in a block of ice-perpetual preservation. Said block of ice is adopted by ...more
Shirley
Jul 21, 2014 Shirley added it
Shelves: 2014
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Neco Turkienicz
I began reading and was fascinated by the book very quickly. The story, the Jewish background, the Yiddish, all of it. The language was a bit challenging for me, english not being my mother tongue, but Stern's style kept me hooked almost until the end. I would really give five stars to this book if it wasn't for the ending. It felt to me as if Stern didn't know how to end the story, as if he was building up to something he couldn't define as he started writing. So he decided to trash it all, to ...more
Dmehringer
ZERO STARS
Intrigued by the title, repulsed by the story. A rabbi is meditating in 1800's Poland, goes into a trance while at a lake, doesn't wake up, is frozen in the ice, removed by a family, and kept frozen and protected by that family for over 100 years. I like multi-generational stories, but this is ridiculous. The rabbi (in his zinc lined casket so he doesn't melt) is brought to America, kept in a Kelvinator freezer, and then one day the Rabbi melts and is once again alive. The family which
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Tim Hicks
That was just plain enjoyment. You'll laugh, you'll cry ... This is a densely-written book that rewards you for paying attention; don't take a month to read it.
If you don't know any Yiddish, go read something else first, maybe some old MAD magazines or another author - but you won't need much, and most of the terms are spelled out or obvious in context. There are plenty of interesting characters of the "put them together and stand back to watch" kind. Your willingness to suspend disbelief will
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Sassy
I felt different ways about this book at different times along the narrative. My favorite part was the story line about Jochaved and Schmerle; I looked forward to it during the Bernie interludes, and never really stopped missing it once the story moved on beyond their time. The writing is funny and understated in all the right places. As a fellow Memphian, I felt a little insulted by the repeated references to lilacs, which do not grow here, and the idea that in 2002 we would have had a racist m ...more
Phillip
I love everything I've read so far of Steve Stern. The idea of Jewish magical realism attracts me all by itself, but Stern's writing style is rich and smooth. Like his other stories and books The Frozen Rabbi was fun to read even when the narrative is kind of disturbing. For me the underlying theme is true believers.
There are two narratives in alternating chapters of the book. One is the present time account of the teen who thaws out the wonder-working rabbi who has been kept frozen for over a
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Becca
Two and a half stars. I generally love multi-generational storytelling, but this was a time where it didn't work.

Every time I grew attached to a character, that character would be swapped out for a younger relative, resulting in a watered down portrait of the Karp clan. If this had been solely a story about a boy and his defrosted rabbi, it may have succeeded as a comic satire, but by interweaving that story with tales of the young Bernie's predecessors, Stern weakened all the plotlines.
Erin
I *loved* this book..couldn't stop reading...up until about the last 40 pages. I enjoyed the look at the family through time (and would be glad to read more about Shmerl and Jocheved), and even liked the parts set in the present day. The ending, I must admit, rather lost me. So I'm giving it 4 stars for all the rest of the story!
Elana Goldman
A word of advice? Stick with Jonathan Safran Foer.
I pulled this book out of my local library hoping for a thoughtful, quirky or at least fun Jewish read to brighten up my summer.
Instead, what I got was an insipid, overlong and frankly pretty offensive book that I wish I hadn't wasted my time reading.
Stern is enchanted with the sound of his own voice, and it shows. Almost every sentence in The Frozen Rabbi could (and probably should) be cut in half, and the book wouldn't suffer at all. In fact
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Michael Hirsch
Thoroughly bizarre novel. A rabbi is drowned, ten frozen while meditating. 100 years later he thaws and comes back to life. The story follows two arcs: the modern story of how the the world reacts to the rabbi, and the story of how the rabbi ends up in Tennessee after drowning in a shtetls somewhere in Europe. The second story is more interesting is you have any interest in the modern history of need. You get to follow the rabbi as his caretakers escape the ghettos of Europe to arrive at the ghe ...more
Kelly
A zany, bizarre, hilarious, fun, satirical adventure that I found immensely enjoyable. This wasn't a quick read for me; the writing is excellent, but the language and structure required me to read the story a bit slower. Teenage Bernie learns his family's history when the rabbi in his freezer defrosts and when he discovers his grandfather's diary. And what a history this family has! I preferred the 1800s and early 1900s flashbacks more than the modern-day story, and I think the ending did not li ...more
Irving Koppel

What happens when a 19th Century rabbi, who has been
preserved in ice,suddenly is defrosted and finds himself
in the 21st Century? In this madcap,extremely entertaining
novel,we not only find out the answer to that question,but
we also gain an insight into life in a Jewish "shtetl" in
the 19th Century. Furthermore,we get a very realistic
glimpse of the voyage of immigrants who came from Europe
in "steerage",and we are exposed to the difficulties of
life on the Lower East Side of Manhattan at the tu
...more
Ehrrin
May 13, 2010 Ehrrin marked it as to-read
from NPR's "What We're Reading, May 11-17"
Aaron Brame
The Frozen Rabbi is a hilarious, sprawling story of a rabbi who becomes literally frozen in an Eastern European pond in 1889. The novel then concerns itself with two entwined stories--first, the rabbi's long journey across the continent and century until it lands in suburban Memphis, and, secondly, the tale of his thaw and ascendancy as a new-age guru and entrepreneur. Mixed in somewhere is the character of Bernie Karp, the overweight suburbanite who finds him in his father's basement freezer, a ...more
Danielle
I picked up this book because I have two good friends who enjoyed it, so I wonder if my disappointment in this book was merely due to high expectations. That having been said, I really felt like Stern was trying to juggle more than he could handle. I can envision a world in which this book was written by a more skilled author, and that is a book I would love to read. However, the book that I had in front of me did not resonate emotionally in the way it seemed to want to. There are two plots, one ...more
rebellyell666
Inhalt:

Während ein über Jahrhunderte gefrorener, nun aufgetauter Rabbi sich mit Informationen aus dem Fernsehen in Vorbereitung auf die Neuzeit vollpumpen lässt, geht Bernie Karp seiner Familiengeschichte nach…

Schreib-/Erzählstil:

Gewöhnungsbedürftig. Am Anfang konnte ich noch eine gewisse Situationskomik ausmachen, die aber zunehmend verflog. Die Unterteilungen der einzelnen Jahresabschnitte machte es zwar einfach, die Handlungsstränge zu unterscheiden, aber da sich Stern beinahe nur in der Verg
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Aaron Poorman

The Karp family are hiding something in their freezer, and it isn't large thick slabs of glorious bacon ; although if certain accounts are to be believed it may taste something like pork. Fifteen year old couch potato Bernie Karp ( the novel's primary protagonist) happens upon his family's heirloom whilst searching for an attractive piece of meat which he intends to put to use in a rather inappropriate manner. Hunger pangs emanating just south of his stomach Bernie comes face to face with a full
...more
Jessica
What a long, strange trip this book was. I checked it out in January and read about 150 pages but got annoyed with the florid writing style and returned it to the library. A month later, I found myself wondering about the characters and so I found it again and finished it.

The book begins at the turn of the 21st century, when teenager Bernie Karp finds a rabbi frozen in a block of ice in the family's chest freezer. The story then bounces between the rabbi's adventures once he is thawed and the s
...more
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Stern was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1947, the son of a grocer. He left Memphis in the 1960s to attend college, then to travel the US and Europe — living, as he told one interviewer, "the wayward life of my generation for about a decade," and ending on a hippie commune in the Ozarks. He went on to study writing in the graduate program at the University of Arkansas, at a time when it included se ...more
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