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Kaaterskill Falls

3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  1,707 ratings  ·  166 reviews
Kaaterskill is the tiny town in upstate New York where Orthodox summer people and Yankee year-rounders live side by side from June through August. It is the summer of 1976, and Elizabeth Shulman, a devout follower of Rav Elijah Kirshner and the mother of five daughters, is restless. Across the street, Andras Melish is drawn to Kaaterskill by his adoring older sisters, the ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published August 10th 1998 by The Dial Press
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,883)
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jo
Sep 28, 2008 jo rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like the little things
i'm astounded that this is a first novel. i'm astounded that, while writing a first novel, allegra goodman didn't feel any pressure to thicken the plot and jack up the sentimentality. i'm astounded that she chose as the topic of her first novel a strict orthodox community in which nothing much happens except the tiny movements that make up life for most of us most days. and i'm astounded that so many people read and loved this novel.

this seems such a non-commercial novel. there is no glossary at
...more
Sharon
Started slow and boring, but I read it since it was for our book club. Got better as I read further, but I ended up angry at the narrow, selfish, chauvinistic, patriarchal attitude of the leaders of that community-- and of many of the men who flowed so blindly. As I once heard, the only difference between oppressed and oppressor is opportunity and that certainly was evident in this community. Escaping from Germany prior to Kristallnacht, the Rav became as controlling and obsessed with HIS ideas ...more
Fabian
Sep 16, 2008 Fabian rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Fabian by: Liana and EW
This "Our Town" was constructed with great care and written very simply... which baffles considering how organic the characters come off as and how poetic the narrative is.

The only source of symbolism is wallpaper and house panels with floral motifs. Thats it. Everything else comes from the simple actions and thoughts of the 20+ characters who inhabit the titular town on the outskirts of NYC. The jewish summer retreat of magnificent beauty is only a backdrop to the people who both suffer for and
...more
LM Yellow
This was just lovely. Every summer, Brooklyn empties as many of the Jews in my community go upstate to
bungalow colonies for the summer. Having only been to two colonies as a guest I can best describe these places as Camp Mather family camp near Yosemite, except of course more orthodox, and totally different.
Anyway this book is set in the mid '70's and centers around the members of a colony or camp. In
Kaaterskill Falls though the members are not all religious or religious in the same way as co
...more
Carla
Allegra Goodman invites the reader into a self-contained Orthodox summer community in the Adirondacks. This is a quiet novel that involves you in a special sect devoted to its ancient Rabbi and literal interpretations of the Torah. I learned a great deal about Jewish ritual and esoteric holidays. However, the heart of the novel is found within the individual characters and their different adaptations to the community and its ideals. I liked the author's respect for her characters and her appreci ...more
Susan
I look for National Book Award winners/finalists and Kaaterskill Falls did not disappoint me. What a wonderful look at a closed Orthodox community with all the well-developed characters who migrate from NYC to the Catskill Mtns. for the summer. I especially enjoyed the friendship of Jewish teenager Renee and her Syrian, free-spirited friend, Stephanie; I could not say the same for Renee's mother who did not believe in assimilation. Yet another example of the young showing us how to get along wi ...more
Amy
This was interestng story that really didn't do anything much in terms of external plot. Most of the book takes place in the minds of the characters, mostly Orthodox jews, who are summering in Upstate New York. It offers a slice of life into a world that others might not ever see or know exists. The parts with the women were the most interesting to me and how the women followed strict laws that didn't really involve them. I wanted to see more happen, like a romance between the teenagers or the s ...more
David
This novel is a portrait of a group of Jews connected to a community of orthodox Orthodox Jews who live in Washington Heights, Manhattan, New York, with a summer community in the Catskills. There is no one central character, and less a plot than a series of stories, none so dramatic in itself. However, the writing is excellent and the layers of meaning thick. The characters are neither romanticized nor turned into emotional talismans.

A good read for a quiet, rainy day, which is when I read it.

B
...more
Heidi
Jun 01, 2008 Heidi rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Elena C.
I've read a couple of books by Allegra Goodman so far, and have liked them both, but this book was the superior of the two. It centers around a community of orthodox Jews who summer in Upstate New York. And that is pretty much it. Things are resolved, or are not; life-changing moments happen, or don't. Just as in real life. Nothing strange or outrageous occurs -- it is just the story of the lives of a few people that we get to know over the course of the book, a beautiful portrait of a community ...more
Liz green
I agree with Brecken in that Kaaterskill Falls is slow starting, mostly due to an over abundance of characters, which is also its greatest weakness. It is difficult to connect to the characters, and while they each have different motivations and characteristics they do not seem to become individuals. The strength of the novel is in its intriguing themes: community, obedience, dedication, abuse of power, the word, trials of faith, comparing self to others, and family. There are beautiful passages ...more
Brecken Cook
Kaaterskill Falls is slow starting, mostly due to an over abundance of characters, which is also its greatest weakness. It is difficult to connect to the characters, and while they each have different motivations and characteristics they do not seem to become individuals. The strength of the novel is in its intriguing themes: community, obedience, dedication, abuse of power, the word, trials of faith, comparing self to others, and family. There are beautiful passages, and interesting conflict.
Susan Ackland
This lovely portrait of the interior lives of a group of ultra-Orthodox Jews is deep and rich even though the subject matter could be described as narrow. The novel explores how the outward, uniform religious practice of this group of followers of a rabbi - leader masks subtle individual differences of attitude toward this all-encompassing mode of life. Because virtually the entire community moves to the town of Kaaterskill Falls in the summer, where their lives lightly touch those of the year-r ...more
Kate
I LOVED this book and was very sad when it came to an end. I read Intuition by Allegra Goodman first. Two very different reads. While I liked Intuition well enough, I liked this one even better because of Goodman's arrow-sharp read of her characters' thoughts and feelings. I love a book that delves into the characters' inner lives, but with restraint and precision. I'm not explaining why I like this book so much very clearly, but I highly recommend it.
Anna
This book actually contains some really beautiful writing. So why 2 stars? I just couldn't connect with the characters. Honestly, I felt a little overwhelmed by the number of them and couldn't seem to keep them straight. An earlier reviewer said the book was slow to start... I must agree. I forced myself to keep going. The beautiful writing is the reason it got two stars from me. It is too bad... I had high hopes.
Ann
I honestly could not put this book down. I must have been up most of the night reading it, to the annoyance of my husband. When I finished I gave it to him and then he understood. I love Allegra Goodman, but this is far and away her best. An astonishing portrayal of a world so close and yet so far apart; an even more astonishing portrayal of characters so real I felt I might meet them at any moment.
AmandaHeather
I'm conflicted about my feelings on this book...it's very well written, with descriptive passages that do very well at expressing internal emotions and bring you inside the characters heads. You come to understand not only the people of the community in the story, but the impetus behind every decision made.

However, I don't feel any different having had experienced this slice of their lives. Very little actually happened, and in the scheme ov most characters lives, the world just keeps spinning.
...more
David Jay
The Kirschners are a sect of Orthodox Jews who live in Washington Heights and summer in Kaaterskill Falls. The time is mid to late 1970s. Engrossing, with richly drawn, memorable characters. Beautifully written.
David
A finalist for the 1998 National Book Award, Kaaterskill Falls traces the lives of Orthodox Jewish families who reside in Brooklyn but who summer in upstate New York during the late 1970's. Allegra Goodman, with much insight, dissects their beliefs, their feelings for each other, and their struggles to adapt to North American life. Elizabeth, devoted mother and homemaker, wishes to take advantage of an opportunity for self-fulfillment. It shows the complicated character of the old rabbi, who is ...more
Elizabeth
Beautiful story set in upstate New York about three Orthodox families who are torn between religious tradition and the secular world. Outstanding.
Marzipan
I am really struggling with this book. I grew up in an east coast Orthodox community (which I left many years ago) and this is not ringing true to me at all. Many of the names are jarringly inaccurate, as though I were reading a book set in the 1700s with characters called Cassidy and Brayden. The inaccurate description of so many little details like that just take me out of the whole setting. I'm going to edit this review if I can make it further into the book, but thus far I'm pretty disappoin ...more
Katherine
“ ‘If I don’t work with large animals, I want to expose social injustice’” (42).
“Old voices that creaked and swung in rhythm, their long phrases like the screen door on the bungalow, closing slowly, partway, a little mores, and then, with a long sigh, thumping shut” (52).
"But in his daily studies he still strives to understand, identify, take a text to heart, to reach through the centuries of commentary, those layers of responsa, and grasp a meaning that is strong, believable. And when it happen
...more
Mimi
After reading both KAATERSKILL FALLS and PARADISE PARK, I feel that Ms. Goodman's talent lies in masterful characterization. From the lost yet loveable Sharon Speigelman of PARADISE PARK to Elizabeth Schulman and the surrounding Kaaterskill community, the characters are always interesting, always real!

KAATERSKILL FALLS is the story of a community of Orthodox Jews who migrate between Washington Heights (Brooklyn) and Kaaterskill Falls, an Upstate NY community, in the summer. This novel deals with
...more
Wendy Kobylarz-Chouvarda
Goodman is a good writer: she makes you feel as if you're in the setting she describes, and she knows how to pick the right words so that, despite the limited amount of time you're with a particular character, some of them have quite a bit of depth.
On the other hand, the novel is extremely jumpy and virtually plotless. I don't care for the majority of the characters, partly, I think, because many of them are so bland, something of stereotypes, or not even quite that deep. They're just kind of t
...more
Patrick
I give this book a 2.5 stars because although the writing was okay and the story line was quite bland, the characters in the book were pretty good.

The book is about a Hasidic community in NYC which revolves around this learned Rav. This fictional account fills more like an ethnographic look into Jews and Hasidic Jews specifically. It celebrates inner conflict but external consistency.

The character developments that I particularly enjoy was that of Elizabeth vs the Rav Isaiah. Elizabeth is a re
...more
Dara
“In the summer of '76, the Shulmans and the Melishes migrate to Kaaterskill, the tiny town in upstate New York where Orthodox Jews and Yankee year-rounders live side by side from June through August. Elizabeth Shulman, a devout follower of Rav Elijah Kirshner and the mother of five daughters, is restless. She needs a project of her own, outside her family and her cloistered community. Across the street, Andras Melish is drawn to Kaaterskill by his adoring older sisters, bound to him by their los ...more
Jessica
I bought this book when I was on vacation near Kaaterskill Falls in upstate New York and I thought it would be interesting to read a story that takes place there.

This is a beautifully written story and there are some incredibly poignant moments throughout. It is a character driven story, so not much of a plot, but plenty to ponder about life, death, spirituality, family, and tradition. It is also a really interesting window into the Jewish culture in New York.

I loved the way Goodman allowed eac
...more
Mary
Beautifully evocative of a small jewish Washington Heights community that summers in upstate NY- especially insightful about the inner lives of those who have strong faith, faith because of heritage and habit, and those that follow because they feel their choices are limited. That breaking faith would be too hard and costly. I really enjoyed this book and how it ended in ways that were unresolved. Life goes on.
Therese
Read for book club (7/2011). I enjoyed this novel and felt that I learned a bit as well. It was interesting to see how a tight-knit group of Orthodox Jews related to each other in this summer vacation setting. The question of allegiance to a particular rabbi and the struggle to remain a good and faithful woman to this group while yearning for a small gesture of independence and something to have as her own was really touching (a store). Despite having zero in common with Elizabeth Shulman, I cou ...more
Jennifer
Interesting insight into life in a Hasidic community and the joy and tensions inside. I love books with great character development, and this had that, but could have used a bit more plot. It sorted of seemed like you were just dropped into their lives for a year.
Laurie
Learned many things from this book about a culture I knew very little about. Loved the way the author described the characters' feelings about their religious faith. Made me more sympathetic than I otherwise may have been.
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Can someone please explain the ending? 2 9 Jun 21, 2014 09:31PM  
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