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Turbulent Souls: A Catholic Son's Return To His Jewish Family
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Turbulent Souls: A Catholic Son's Return To His Jewish Family

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3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  604 ratings  ·  59 reviews
"Turbulent Souls" is a luminous memoir, crafted with the eye of a journalist and the art of a novelist by "New York Times Magazine" writer and editor Stephen J. Dubner. By turns comic and heartbreaking, it tells the story of a family torn apart by religion, sustained by faith, and reunited by truth.
Paperback, 368 pages
Published October 1st 1999 by Harper Perennial (first published 1998)
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Community Reviews

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Kressel Housman
I’ve become a big Freakonomics fan in recent weeks. Not only have I read both books, I’ve watched the DVD, and listened to every podcast on Freakonomics Radio. So when I found out that Stephen Dubner, the journalist half of the Freakonomics team, wrote about a book about his journey to Judaism, you know I was all over it. I read it on Shabbos, which is something I wouldn’t do with Freakonomics because it’s purely secular studies. Turbulent Souls, in contrast, is a spiritual memoir, although – al ...more
Lisa
I thought I would hate this book and never be able to make it through the end. I was very surprised when I couldn't put it down. While this book was based on Catholicism and Judaism, it was truly about families, protecting those we love, and learning where we come from. I thought it was fantastic.
Catherine
I don't think I would have even picked this book up had it not been selected by my book club. I liked this book a lot more than I thought I would. I enjoyed reading about the author's family. Both of his parents converted to Catholicism in their early 20s. The author's father passed away when he was ten. He was the youngest of eight children. So some of the book was about the author's research on his father and his father's family.

I thought the book got bogged down a bit when it came to Mr. Dub
...more
Leigh
Feb 23, 2008 Leigh rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who enjoys memoirs or biographies
Recommended to Leigh by: Tovah - the Rabbi's wife in Kobe
Shelves: non-fiction
A moving memoir, grabs you heart and soul. Truly a fascinating story of one man's family and their journey from Jew to Catholic and then finally the son's return to Judaism. Although there is much talk of religion, the focus is really on family and how they can be torn apart and then brought back together.
Deborah Zwayer
For anyone who has ever felt like a fish out of water. Beautifully written and wonderfully observed this man, who by intuition and sometimes happenstance discovers where his soul ultimately finds a place to rest.
Joni
Great book. I reread this book around 2006 and still enjoyed the 2nd time
Catherine Dover Stetson
Very interesting story from the point of view of either religion.
Elliot Ratzman
Freakanomics coauthor Stephen Dubner’s parents were NYC Jews who during WWII fell in love with Catholicism, then each other. Their rejection of their superstitious Jewish parents is understandable, but they go full throttle—becoming super-Catholics—first Dorothy Dayniks, then anti-abortion activists. Eight children and a hardscrabble life on an upstate NY farm later, the father wrestles with depression and no career prospects. Dubner, the youngest sibling, grows up just as his parents are experi ...more
Marilyn Maya
I read this book twice. Once when it first came out because I was reading everything Jewish while returning to my roots. I just reread it and have got much more this time because my journey toward my culture is more evolved. I won't tell the story as others have already told the fascinating story of Dubner's return to Judaism after growing up Catholic. I liked his story and I liked him. With all the family he has I thought I would get lost but I did only in that his storytelling is spellbinding. ...more
Kelly
This is not a book I would have picked up on my own, but a friend loaned it to me and I couldn't put it down. Stephen Dubner is not only an excellent writer, but a historian as well. This is one of the most innocently sincere memoirs I have read in a long time. I thoroughly enjoyed the author's journey through his family's past, his discoveries, and his own spiritual awakening. A very interesting story written by a quite interesting and talented author.
Frank Inserra
Intensely personal autobiographical reflections about the re-conversion to Judaism of a child brought up as a devout Catholic by two Jewish converts. A heartfelt and intelligently written account of interest to me because of my own religiously mixed family. This book appears to have been retitled after being originally issued as "Choosing My Religion."
Ellen
An interesting memoir. Part faith exploration, part coming of age in an ultra religious Catholic family. Enjoyed the coming of age portion tremendously. The tales of the family and their ultra-Catholicism brought a smile to my face as I compared it with my own (not nearly so devout) Catholic up-bringing.
The final portion of the book-the writer's struggle with his faith and his concurrent struggle with his relationship with his mother-left me with mixed emotions. I wanted him to get off his moth
...more
Beth
An average book / memoir. I never fell in love with any of the characters. Nor did I find it the kind of book I didn't want to put down. The story and writing are both solid but I did not find myself caring about the characters enough.
Jakki
Oct 29, 2011 Jakki rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Catholics of Jewish background and anyone wanting to understand why Catholics/Jews have been at war
Shelves: true-stories
A wonderful memoir by the youngest child of large Catholic family, Stephen, and his exploration into his parent's Jewish ancestry, later conversion to the Catholic church and then the author's own journey /claiming of hie Jewish ancestry.

A story filled with many family secrets, the author had no idea of the many, many Jewish relatives he had who loved him and had always wondered about him. I can't imagine the shock, pain and anger he must have felt when he realized an entire half of his family h
...more
Stacie Pittard
Very interesting story. I greatly enjoyed reading about the author's journey. His experience gave him a very unique perspective, and I found myself intensely flipping through the pages in order to hear what he had to say. I felt that he was very honest with this book. He spoke his mind and shared with us the intimate parts of his life, while at the same time remaining sensitive to anyone's personal feelings and beliefs. I disagreed with his overall point...but I gained a lot from this book. His ...more
Jen King
An amazing story indeed. I had to read this book for a course, but I ended up not being able to put it down. Highly recommended!
Hilary
This book started out strong and interesting...mostly because it was about the Narrators parents. As it got more into the life of the Narrator himself, I found that I just didn't relate. I found him to be hypocritical and somewhat selfish and self-righteous. I couldn't connect with him and I couldn't empathize with his plight. I just wanted to get through the end. Religion is something personal and I can't stand when people push their choices and thoughts on others. Do what makes you happy - but ...more
Beckie
Stephen Dubner was raised by strict Catholic parents. He knew they had converted from Judaism, but only as an adult did he begin to explore what that meant.
In this memoir, Dubner chronicles his childhood, his longing to understand the father who died when he was ten, the painful unraveling of his parents' past and his own eventual conversion story.
Dubner's family has an unusual religious history, but the tensions that exist between parents and children are universal. The writing is good, if a bi
...more
Karen
Fascinating story. The author is very reflective, self-aware, and sensitive. I am amazed at how sympathetically he is able to describe his mother's childhood and early adulthood, since at the end of the book we realize that his experience of her is quite different than the young woman he portrays. Religious conversion is an interesting topic, and he is able to explain both his mother's pull towards Catholicism and his pull towards Judaism well.
Dina Tanners
A fascinating story of two Jews who both converted to Catholicism in the 1940s and raised a big family. The father ate gefilte fish with matzot after mass on Sunday for Years. Dubner, a noted journalist, writes the story of his family. I was teaching at a Jesuit college at the time I read this book in the 1990s and found a man who taught at the same school with a similar background.
Nancy
An amazing story. Jewish man and a Jewish woman convert to Catholicism. The met, fell in love and had 6-7 kids. All raised Catholic. The author always felt a void in his life and when he discovered his parents roots he started to explore. The journey is really fascinating and illuminating. I learned things about Judaism I never knew and some that I wish I still didn't.
Matt
Broken into 3 parts. Part one AWESOME! Part 2, good but with some sporadic boring. Part 3, boring wiht some sporadic good, but by then you are invested and need to finish. Great ideas, but he always seems to be very open minded on his part, but not on when he may be wrong. He wants to be open minded, but can't seem to get there.
Jessica
I read this years ago and it was a fascinating memoir about a young man who learns that his parents were raised as Jews and then converted to Catholicism. Fun fact--this is the same Stephen Dubner who does the Freakanomics radio show.

I don't remember when I read it but my grandmother gave me the rec and she died in 2004.
Deborah Ala
It was interesting to read about a family scenario I hadn't encountered before, and I was really impressed with the way Dubner tried to avoid alienating his mother with his decision to return to Judaism, and to be sure that he wasn't doing it for the wrong reasons.
Julia Shumway
Stephen J. Dubner writes a very compelling history of his religious transition as well as that of his parents. I enjoyed his exploration of his own feelings and his honest introspection. A very pleasant and poignant read.
Derek
Truly one of the most remarkable books I have ever read. Dubner's account of the discovery that he made about his mother's Jewish roots is riveting. If you have any interest in family history, you won't put this book down.
Sarah
This is a solid memoir about a family and their religious persuasions. Parts of the beginning got a little confusing as many characters change names or have multiple nicknames. But, overall, it was quite intriguing.
Meghan
Aug 02, 2009 Meghan marked it as to-read-a-h  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Meghan by: Stephen J. Dubner
Shelves: biography, nonfiction
Dubner is the co-author of Freakonomics. This is one of the two other books he's written. I like his writing style so I'm interested in reading these. Plus, he wrote a children's book which is actually kind of cute.
Sheila
Interesting true story of two Jews who found Jesus and each other, leaving their extended Jewish families behind, and their son's search for his roots. Moral of the story -- family is important.
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Stephen J. Dubner is an award-winning author, journalist, and TV and radio personality. In addition to Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics, his books include Turbulent Souls Choosing My Religion, Confessions of a Hero-Worshiper, and the children’s book The Boy With Two Belly Buttons. His journalism has been published in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and Time, and has been anthologized in The ...more
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