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Kaaterskill Falls

3.63  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,945 Ratings  ·  180 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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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Elizabeth
Mar 08, 2016 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed this even more the second time around. This story about a small Jewish Orthodox community is remarkable. It is closely observed and breaks my heart with its many details about the human condition.

Recommended.
jo
Sep 28, 2008 jo rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Fabian
May 05, 2016 Fabian rated it really liked it  ·  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
Sharon
Feb 10, 2011 Sharon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Carla
May 17, 2011 Carla rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Kate
Oct 07, 2008 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 16, 2010 Anna rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
LM Yellow
Jun 21, 2012 LM Yellow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Susan
Jun 06, 2011 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 22, 2007 Amy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: judaism
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
Dec 19, 2010 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
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 really liked it  ·  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
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
Mar 17, 2014 Susan Ackland rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Ann
Apr 06, 2008 Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 18, 2007 David Jay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 01, 2014 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Carolyn
Jul 11, 2015 Carolyn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, realistic
I think I picked up this paperback after Goodman’s more recent book “Intuition” started being reviewed all over the place. And as to why I decided to read it now, I guess Michael Chabon’s latest got me in the mood for random outbursts of Yiddish (and/or Hebrew) and explications of Talmudic law!

The plot was somewhat meandering (no big climax at the end) and predictable — surely all intelligent people must struggle at one time or another with belief and the irrationality of restrictive religions —
...more
Laura
Jun 02, 2016 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To its credit, this story about a summer community of mostly Jewish people did not have a beginning or an end. The book begins in the middle of all of the characters’ lives and ends in the middle of all their lives. The book takes place during a relative short period of time, but one in which the characters change and grow. I want to say it is about coming of age stories, but it is the adults who are “coming of age,” so it is not the right expression, but is the right idea. I felt like I was an ...more
Marzipan
Mar 05, 2015 Marzipan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
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
Di
Nov 19, 2015 Di rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very quiet book about an Orthodox Jewish community that summers in upstate New York. I would say that the main theme seems to be about how one lives one's life under restrictions, whether those restrictions are imposed from one's religion, familial obligations, or from society in general. I enjoyed getting a glimpse into the practices of this particular sect of Judaism. My main reason for not giving it a higher rating is that there were way too many characters making it too difficult to rememb ...more
Katherine
Oct 08, 2010 Katherine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
“ ‘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
Mar 05, 2010 Mimi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 19, 2013 Wendy rated it it was ok
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
Sep 01, 2010 Patrick rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
May 12, 2013 Dara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
“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
Aug 09, 2014 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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Can someone please explain the ending? 3 11 Mar 08, 2016 07:47AM  
Madison Mega-Mara...: Kaaterskill Falls 1 3 Dec 31, 2012 02:24PM  
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