Doug Cannon's Reviews > My Name Is Asher Lev

My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
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Oct 17, 11

Read from October 11 to 15, 2011

Over the years, my Dad and I would occasionally have a conversation about this book. It would invariably go something like this:

My dad asks, "You have never read My Name is Asher Lev?"
and I would reply, "No, I haven't"
"You are so lucky! Now you still have the joy of looking forward to reading the book."
"We've had this conversation before, Dad."
"Then why haven't you read it yet?"
"Because as soon as I read it, you won't say I'm so lucky anymore."

I think the risk was worth it to be "less lucky" and I finally read the Asher Lev book. My reasoning is that I still have "The Promise" and "The gift of Asher Lev" that remain unread. I've already read "The Chosen" (twice), and "The Book of Lights".

Asher Lev is a practicing Hasidic Jew from brooklyn family that is very prominent and well known among his people, not only in Brooklyn, but in Europe, Russia, and many other places. He discovers early that art and drawing is very important to him, which is generally shunned in his culture. He once has a very pointed discussion with his father where he tells him to never call his drawing foolishness again.

Asher becomes a world famous artist despite his father's wishes, and his masterpiece is an incredible piece. The whole description of the time when his parents see the painting is very moving. Asher is painfully aware that his painting will hurt the people he loves, especially his parents. The ending of the book was very powerful.

Powerful enough, that I'll read the sequel, The Gift of Asher Lev. Being a little less lucky isn't so bad after all.

The beginning of my review is all the funnier to me, because I had already written that part (in my mind) but before writing it here, my brother wrote the comment you can see below. Apparently, it runs in the family to be jealous of those who can still look forward to unread Chaim Potok novels.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Todd Cannon If you have not read this book before I am so jealous that you are getting to read it for the first time. One of my all time favorites. Make sure you also read the sequel "The Gift of Asher Lev". I only wish Potok was still alive to write more books.


Doug Cannon It's funny, Todd, that you would say that. In a few days when I write the review for this book, you will see why.


message 3: by Jona (last edited Oct 18, 2011 03:51AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jona Cannon I guess now I'm the lucky one! It sounded to me like a typical Jewish/dysfunctional family story. But you have me convinced that I will love this book.


message 4: by Doug (last edited Oct 18, 2011 07:02AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Doug Cannon Jona wrote: "I guess now I'm the lucky one! It sounded to me like a typical Jewish/dysfunctional family story. But you have me convinced that I will love this book."

Cool. The think about Chaim Potok is that he is a very good writer. He doesn't write so much "flash-in-the-pan" kind of writing, where he tries to shock you with violence (Hunger Games) or just give you pure entertainment (Grisham, Rowling, others). His stories really make you think deeply about life, conflict, resolution, etc.

There were 3 very memorable places in the book that I enjoyed. The first, I mention in my review when Asher defiantly tells his father to stop calling his drawings foolishness. Another was when Asher says that his eyes were changing. He started seeing the world differently, in lines, contours, and shading. Because Jessica has become such an artist, it makes me often wonder how she sees the world. She is always making comments about sunsets, landscapes and other things, but the way she talks about it makes me think that she literally sees it differently. Then, she has the ability to reproduce that beauty in a drawing or painting. Potok described that a little through Asher's eyes. The final gem for me in the book was pretty much a recurring theme throughout the book, and it was Asher's mother's struggle to please her husband and her son. She explained to Asher that it was very difficult for her to love them both and try to help them both, but that she was between them. She had to agree with her husband in certain points and agree with Asher in others. It was very difficult for her, and that struggle continues.

It's not a book with a lot of happiness, in fact, the first chapter is very depressing. But, the book feels real, and it feels true in many ways. That is something I like to look for in a book, and especially it leaves me with memories and insights that I can use to make my life better. I'm not saying I will, but I could. :)


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