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I Am the Clay

3.54  ·  Rating Details ·  1,293 Ratings  ·  101 Reviews
"Potok writes powerfully about the suffering of innocent people caught in the cross-fire of a war they cannot begin to understand....Humanity and compassion for his characters leap from every page."
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
As the Chinese and the army of the North sweep south during the Korean War, an old peasant farmer and his wife flee their village across the bleak, bombed
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ebook, 256 pages
Published April 28th 2010 by Fawcett (first published January 1st 1991)
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Community Reviews

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Debbi Koplen
Jun 22, 2009 Debbi Koplen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am surprised at the lackluster reviews. Although this book was a departure from Potok's usual topics of Jewish social and historical issues, it was nonetheless powerful, riveting, and raw in emotion. It remains as one of my favorite books.
Angela
Sep 07, 2016 Angela rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Quietly stunningly beautiful.
Debbie
Jan 31, 2016 Debbie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm slowly working my way through the reading of each of Chaim Potok's books, so I savor the time in-between, knowing that, in time, I will read another and am confident it too, as the ones before, will be a rewarding and well written novel. I Am The Clay was so different, yet, the haunting story of war varies little from the different landscapes where it takes place. Be it Poland, France, Syria, Sarajevo or Korea... Potok has brought the daily struggle, and I mean struggle in a way that most of ...more
Marian
Oct 19, 2008 Marian rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
So after reading a bunch of youth fiction and romance-type books I decided to find one at the library that held a little more social relevance. Looking for My Name is Asher Lev, I found this book. It was a bit dreary, but what can you expect of a story taking place during the Korean war. I enjoyed the fact that in some way each of the three characters, an old man and his wife and a wounded stranger (a boy), saved each other. The book was mainly told from the old man's perspective, and he was to ...more
Jerjonji
I've loved every Chaim Potok book I've ever read, but this one was a surprise as the author revisits the Korean war from the viewpoint of the refugees. It read like a piece of non-fiction- as you can't create such a real story- it had to happen. I closed it thinking that I know so little about our world and our past, and I'm not alone in that condition. We think we know all the facts, but until you've nearly died in cave, mostly starved, alone, you don't know what it feels like to have your life ...more
Thom Dunn
Tedium reigns for the first 100 pages as Korean peasant refugees stuggle day after day after day....but that's kinda the point: The Korean War as seen from the ground up by "little," "unimportant" people. John Updike's Henry Bech once said, speaking of literature, "Importance isn't important". Goes double for people, yes ? Not the most compelling of Potok's nine novels, perhaps, but his only one not dealing directly with Judaism, and not to be missed by those ...those who...those who shouldn't m ...more
Shelly
Sep 17, 2009 Shelly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have enjoyed Chaim Potok's books but found this particular book a bit disappointing. It lacked depth of charactor or emotional connection for me. I would recommend reading his other books if you want to read a good Potok book
Lorri
Dec 18, 2016 Lorri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chaim Potok often includes Jewish characters in his novels, or writes about daily life as a Jew. In 'I am the Clay, he touches on the Korean War, and three specific individuals and the effects and how the war affects their lives.

The Korean War is illuminated in all of its devastating and horrific fashion, through Potok's intense and detailed prose. What impressed me was how the story line was told through the eyes of three individuals, a married couple and the boy they saved from death.

I have re
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77mswoods
Dec 01, 2016 77mswoods rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A cross between The Road and The Good Earth, I Am the Clay tells the story of three refugees during the Korean War, displaced by the horrors of battle from their villages and unlikely allies. The Old Man, the Old Woman, and the Boy become an ersatz family unit as they battle an intense winter and grueling geography in a seemingly unending quest to find some days of peace amidst the chaos of war. When it's all finally over, will their bond remain?

I (clearly) loved this book because it reminded me
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Anne Rowley
I'd only recommend this book to someone who doesn't mind stream of consciousness and racial stereotypes. Such a let down, since I loved The Chosen. I think Potok shone writing about what he knew, and nine months as a soldier in Korea didn't qualify him for this story.
Kris
Oct 16, 2016 Kris rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I did not like this book - couldn't get into it and only read half.
Stephanie
Oct 01, 2016 Stephanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is definitely different from "The Chosen" and probably most of his other books having to do much more with Jewish culture. Potok captured well the story of 3 Korean refugees caught in the ravages of the Korean war. As an old Korean couple save a boy they find lying in the ditch, they find that as they care for him, he heals and begins to care for them and bring them what they feel are almost "magical" powers. It is a compelling story of love, war, and a boy's coming-of-age.
Rena Sherwood
“I Am the Clay” (Ballantine Books, 1992) is a difficult book to get through, even though the paperback is roughly 240 pages long. This is a powerful book about the futility of war through its victims. The country and the main characters are never named, which can help readers fill in the blanks with whatever personal experience they have had. This makes them better identify with the victims’ nightmarish sufferings.

“I Am the Clay” is a very strange title choice for a book about the atrocities of
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Jennifer
I usually love Chaim Potok, though its a long time since I readThe Chosen and My Name Is Asher Lev, but I didn't enjoy this book as much as those.
It is much starker, which is I suppose appropriate for the stark subject matter. Somber, desperate semiconsciousness seems to be the state of the characters for virtually the whole book, but this makes it less than enjoyable to read, and I think that a more brilliant author, or perhaps Potok on a good day, can make many of the points made here with gr
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Bonita
Mar 12, 2014 Bonita rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The setting for this short novel is South Korea in the early 1950’s. It succeeds in revealing the dignity of the Korean people, while exposing the complexity of their cultural and religious beliefs which make them so puzzling to outsiders.

As the old man and old woman flee their mountain village alongside thousands of others toward Seoul, shells explode around them and they’re forced to take refuge in a cold, wet ditch. Beside them is a young boy: alone, barely breathing, and suffering severe inj
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Sue
Nov 01, 2014 Sue rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, korea
An elderly couple are fleeing southward from their village during the Korean War. They find themselves in a roadside ditch at one point, and find there an injured boy. The old man wants to leave him, but his wife insists that they take the boy with them. Over the next several days, the boy recovers and helps with the daily survival. Gradually the man realizes that good things are happening with the boy around.
Re-read in 2014. This is very different from all the other books of Potok's that I've
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Skylar Burris
Subject verb object. Adjective subject verb object. Subject verb. Subject verb object.

That's about what it felt like reading this book. Aside from the jarring, staccato writing style, I was unable to forge a connection with the characters, and I abandoned the book part way through. I'm disappointed, because I have very much liked the three other Potok books I have read so far (The Chosen, The Promise, and My Name Is Asher Lev). I was intrigued to pick up a book in which Potok was finally writing
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Melanie
I don't know if I would have read this if it had come through me any other way than through my book club. I am the Clay starts of very slow and very sad and told through two old peasants and an orphaned boy during the Korean war. It is about their journey to find safety and their return to the peasants' village. It seems very cold because we only know the name of the boy, his dog, and a neighbor his age in his old village. It is challenging to figure out whose point of view is being stated. Bein ...more
Susan Peterson
Sep 28, 2011 Susan Peterson rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
Nobody does the fine-grained, heartfelt examination of experience like Potok. Here he turns his attention to an elderly refugee couple whose farm was destroyed during the Korean War. They rescue a badly injured boy, who becomes part of their life. The writing is as clear and powerful as Potok's other books. That's the good news and the bad news. Potok offers an experience of pure, distilled misery--hunger, injury, cold and death. As much as I love Potok's writing, I couldn't take it. I ended up ...more
Penny
Jan 31, 2011 Penny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a tough read because of the subject matter--- heartwrenching descriptions of the deprivations and degradations of war. I loved the character of the old woman. She could see and feel the power of love. The book beautifully portrays the resilience of the human spirit and puts that beauty side by side with the ugliness of human frailty and the sometimes human inclination to be inhuman. The book also showed how important family is and the love of family. I thought it provided good food for ...more
Vesvetrupetr
Nov 16, 2014 Vesvetrupetr rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Příběh o konci času, setkání dvou světů a lidské nezdolnosti. Útěk starce, stařeny a chlapce před korejským válečným běsem a jejich boj s nemocemi, mrazem a hladem připomíná Cestu Cormaca McCarthyho, jen s reálným historickým pozadím a syrovější psychologií postav, které spíše než láska drží pohromadě pud sebezáchovy a vypočítavost.

Vedle dokonalého popisu boje o přežití a bezútěšnosti uprchlíků - obyčejných lidí, kterým se ze dne na den změnil život, pokud o něj přímo nepřišli - je kniha vyjímeč
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Elasha
Apr 28, 2012 Elasha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good book, but a bit depressing; written about the Korean war. I liked it enough that I couldn't put it down but have some gripes with the writing style (sudden shifts from third-person narration to the choppy thoughts of the characters with no indication of whose thoughts they were) and the ending (a bit of a let-down). Still, the old man, old woman, and boy were characters I cared about in the end.

Apparently Potok was a chaplain in the war. As always with these kinds of books, I was reminded o
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ABC
Feb 06, 2010 ABC rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: teens-and-adults
This is set during the Korean War. A old Korean couple find a boy and take care of him.

I have read one of Potok's books, and had assumed this too would be about Judaism. I learned quite a bit about Judaism from the previous book. In this book, however, I didn't feel like I learned anything new about Korean culture or about war.

It seems he is a little out of his depth, relying on over and over again that they are hungry and the spirits and is the boy bad luck or good luck and so on. It is very
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Jared Ure
Oct 23, 2015 Jared Ure rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It feels pretentious to say that in this book Potok perfectly describes war. I've never survived a war or experienced the horrors of those who are refugees along its periphery. But I can say that I think Potok excels in guiding the reader to an individual concept of the horror of war. His method of shifting between perspectives made the characters more memorable and complete, and I liked that.

But I'll not belabor it: "Have thine own way, Lord, have thine own way. Thou art the Potter and I am th
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Sarah
May 19, 2008 Sarah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of William Faulkner.
Shelves: fiction
Chaim Potok is trying to convey a deep meaning, or at least a deep questioning of meaning. However, he also goes to great lengths to portray the sights, sounds, smells--the total feeling of the chaos and helplessness of civilians in war. And that leads to dreary picture after dreary picture. It's similar to a painting that you can appreciate what the artist is expressing, but you wouldn't want in your house. Another big strike against it for me was Potok's frequent use of my least favorite liter ...more
Lenoir
Oct 13, 2008 Lenoir rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008
Chaim Potok is one of my favorite authors but I wasn't expecting to like this book as much as I have his others. However,I ended up enjoying this book very much. I love the way he makes you feel about his characters. This is the story of an elderly Korean couple who are fleeing their village during the Korean War. They find an injured boy and the wife insists on taking him with them. The man goes back and forth between feeling like the boy being there is a curse and feeling like the boy possesse ...more
jenna
Sep 27, 2012 jenna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
I Am the Clay was very poetically written. The story itself moves slowly, at least for my taste, and I found myself rushing thru and made a concerted and conscious effort to slow down. The reward was the recognition that every one of Potok's sentences is a little poem unto itself. He isn't wasteful in the least and the high level of intentionality is evident.

So, it wasn't a page turner for me, but I am glad to have read it and the story is one I expect to stay with me, along with the characters
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J. Whitley
Mar 09, 2013 J. Whitley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Potok is one of my favorite authors. This book captures the tragedy of war and those dislocated by war. How he portrays the human's need to survive is heartbreaking, but the love and kindness in the midst of suffering poignant. I picked this up from our used bookstore and started to read it shortly before N. Korea threatened to attack the US and end the non-agression pact. I pray that the atrocities between North and South Korea are not repeated. This book puts flesh on an old war...that could b ...more
Lauren
Sep 06, 2009 Lauren rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, own
This was a good read - but if you're going to read one by Potok, go with one that's in his native setting: Jewish culture and/or NYC. I absolutely loved both The Chosen and My Name is Asher Lev.

(slight spoiler alert)

This was still good though; although a little like reading The Road-lite and set in Korea but with a hopeful ending instead of haunting-possibly redemptive-gutwrenching one.
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Herman Harold Potok, or Chaim Tzvi, was born in Buffalo, New York, to Polish immigrants. He received an Orthodox Jewish education. After reading Evelyn Waugh's novel Brideshead Revisited as a teenager, he decided to become a writer. He started writing fiction at the age of 16. At age 17 he made his first submission to the magazine The Atlantic Monthly. Although it wasn't published, he received a n ...more
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