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The First Desire

3.45  ·  Rating Details ·  161 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
When Sadie looks out her window and sees her bother standing on the front lawn she knows he can't bring good news. Fidgeting over coffee with sugar and cream he explains: Their sister is gone. Three days earlier Goldie left to go shopping and she has not returned. With Goldie's disappearance as the catalyst, The First Desire takes us deep into the life of the Cohen family ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published August 30th 2005 by Anchor (first published January 12th 2004)
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(showing 1-30 of 444)
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Cheryl Gatling
The Cohens are a Jewish family in Buffalo. Father Abe owns a jewelry store. His wife is dead. He has five grown children. One day daughter Goldie goes out to do some shopping and never comes home. The book begins as a mystery. What has happened to Goldie? Is she dead? Will she come back? How will her absence change the family members she left behind? But years go by, and the story becomes about more than Goldie's absence. It's about the whole more or less dysfunctional family. Sadie, the respect ...more
Aug 17, 2012 Merry rated it really liked it
I just re-discovered the identity of this book. A good book, but very special to me because it is about a Jewish family in Buffalo during the first half of the 20th century, including a psychotic sister named Celia. All true of the paternal side of my family. Most was from before I was born, but a real sense of a community that was familiar with and wanted to know more about. Nostalgic, moody.
Cynthia Vengraitis
Aug 03, 2016 Cynthia Vengraitis rated it liked it
It started out really well but I felt disappointed by the end. Beautifully written albeit wordy at times. It's the story of a well to do Jewish family in Buffalo, NY. The story begins in the late 1920s and ends in 1950.
The characters (5 grown children - 4 women and 1 man) have just lost their mother to cancer, then the eldest leaves without provocation or explanation.
The story is told from everyone's perspective except one (unfortunately the character who'd probably have been the most interest
Jan 16, 2016 Amy rated it liked it
The first desire is for the mother, the second to disappear.

This was not my favorite read. I liked it better in the first half. I just don't care for (spoiler alert) books where nothing happens to transform the characters, and nobody grows by the end. Its just a sad, broken remnant of a family by the books end, and I think my reading time might have been better well spent. I did enjoy her writing and the initial concept and premise.

Now reading the Book of Jonah, the Story Hour, and How's Your
Mar 07, 2013 Misha rated it liked it
BookList: The bonds of family are like spiderwebs: deceptively delicate but tough beyond all reason should we try to break them. When Goldie Cohen, 33, goes missing following her mother’s death and her father’s hasty attachment to the town vixen, the family begins to unravel. Spanning 21 years, from the late 1920s to the ’50s, Reisman’s debut novel provides a glimpse into a splintered Jewish Russian immigrant family in upstate New York. Told from the alternating perspectives of the various Cohen ...more
May 14, 2012 Michele rated it it was ok
It took me a while to get into this book. it is essentially character-driven, everything revolving around the siblings in the family, and the mistress of the father. I thought it was odd to include Lillian, but not all of the siblings. These books that tell the story from the perspective of different people always seem slightly unsatisfying to me in that they don't tell the story from all of the people in the same situation and often seem to include some random other person. Ultimately, I found ...more
Mar 13, 2015 Melanie rated it liked it
I enjoyed this story of the Cohen family. I have a feeling a lot of people would think this book is boring. There aren't any climatic scenes in the story, but I don't mind a "quiet" story once in a while if I like the way the author writes. I felt like I got to know the characters pretty well. The ending wasn't "tied up in a neat bow" but that was ok. Sometimes it's ok to imagine where I think the story would go.
Feb 23, 2012 Kristi rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Hadn't realized when I started it that I had read it already ten years ago. That means it was less than memorable -- dark and psychological study, like Sinclair's Wasteland. Jewish Buffalo quite incidental.
Mar 28, 2011 Kirsten rated it it was amazing
Shelves: on-my-own
One of the best books I've read in a long time. It is set locally -- in Buffalo -- and it really looks into each of the characters, all part of Jewish family in the early 1900's. I found the frustration that each character lived with very believable and sympathized with their feelings of being trapped. It seemed only Goldie could break free, and maybe in her own way, due to her "simpleness" Celia was able to be more free. But Jo, Sadie, and Irving have their limitations and frustrations. Somehow ...more
May 19, 2016 Lori rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written but slow moving story that doesn't really go anywhere interesting. My 3 rating is only because it's technically well done but I would not recommend this based on storytelling basics. I started the book three times and only finally forced myself to finish because I was reading it as an example of unique character development and book structure (for my own writing purposes).
Oct 19, 2011 Sara rated it really liked it
I read this in 2006 and absolutely loved it. The language, the secrets, the slow accretion of life . . . am now listening to the audiobook. Looking forward to Reisman's next book.
Celeste Ng
A quiet, thoughtful book that stayed with me long after I read it. I read it over again whenever I need a reminder of how powerful clean, pure, distilled prose can be.
Jan 07, 2016 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love that this book takes place in Western NY. The writing is fabulous and Reisman captures the essence of everyday life and life over time perfectly.
Jan 16, 2012 Sharon rated it really liked it
I liked this book. It told the story from the perspective of the different complex and flawed siblings. I recommend the book.
May 30, 2008 Deanna rated it did not like it
Shelves: couldnt-finish
I tried for 25 pages but I just couldn't muster up any interest in Goldie's disappearance or how her family felt about it.
Diane Howard
Jul 13, 2011 Diane Howard rated it it was amazing
A really great book. It held my interest right from the start; wondering what happened to the missing sister, Goldie.
Bookmarks Magazine

Critics generally applaud The First Desire as a triumph of style over substance

Nov 09, 2013 Geoffrey rated it did not like it
If you want your literature to match your furniture, you will definitely like this!
Aug 05, 2007 Alexis rated it really liked it
3 1/2 stars. Really good & very well- written.
Cathy Lind
Jan 14, 2010 Cathy Lind rated it it was amazing
Beautiful, sad, tender.
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