The Bible tells its story in black and white—Abraham, commanded by God to offer his son, takes a knife to Isaac at the altar, and then God spares him. Ivan Goldman’s Isaac fills in the gray with questions of good and evil, fate and free-will, time and eternity. But this Isaac, once spared, still roams the world “like one of those Japanese soldiers stranded on an island after World War II.” Was his purpose fulfilled when God provided the ram? Is there nothing more to life than the promise of eternally more of the same?
As one who has loved and lost in the past, Isaac has learned to change his name and identity with the years and avoid all personal attachments. But Ruth evokes a response in him that refuses to let go. The story’s told through Lenny/Isaac’s world-weary eyes and Ruth’s eager modern gaze. Temptation is an elusive threat—temptation to let go, temptation to succeed, or temptation just to bend the rules a little, one at a time. Meanwhile hope and love are elusively desperate goals.
The beast in Lenny’s past evokes memories of Samson, Job and more from Biblical times. The wealth of literary allusions evoke comparisons of cultures, faiths and belief. The romance is intriguingly broken, life’s ivory towers, like Babel, innately flawed, and the magical realism pleasingly compelling.
Thought-provoking, historically intriguing, academically satirical, and oddly compelling, Isaac is indeed a modern fable and a fascinating exploration of the power of forgiveness and love.
Disclosure: I received a free bound galley of this novel from the Permanent Press in exchange for my honest review