Jamie's Reviews > My Name Is Asher Lev

My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
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May 27, 09

Read in April, 2009

I read The Chosen in high school and loved it. When I finished college and moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, I found myself thinking quite a bit about Chaim Potok and the characters from the Chosen--mostly because my education Orthodox Jews stopped with that book. Growing up in Missouri, we had one Jewish family, and I'm not sure they were even practicing. It was hardly anything to prepare you for the very separate lifestyles that exist in Brooklyn and New York City. Just walking across the Williamsburg Bridge was a diverse testiment in varying lifestyles. 100 degree heat, and still, the wives wore their wigs and long sleeved dresses, the men with their robes and hats.

Asher's story takes place a little deeper in Brooklyn than my old stomping ground, but still, I was familiar with his Brooklyn Parkway area. The story, which goes through a number of years and personal changes in Asher's home life and the political situations surrounding Landover Jews in Russia and Europe in that time, was all intreguing. The characters themselves, especially Asher's mother, kept me interested, while once again giving me a taste of the education I'm hard-pressed to find anywhere else--

However, I missed the interactions between friends--which The Chosen is filled with--Danny and Ruben are able to converse in a relatable style, where as Asher is a solitary, strange savante. While that's the point of this book--I think: destiny and knowing your calling, and that callings can sometimes be lonely and heart breaking, it was almost TOO heart breaking. Although Asher gains art and experience, which you knew he was destined to do all along, his family is such a corner stone of HIM, it was very hard to continue to read, knowing as he was fulfilling his personal profocy, he was allienating himself from the only lifestyle he knew and loved.

I don't, naturally, like the idea of religion and faith as being so one-sided. I loved Asher, I also loved his gift, and I think, as a person so far removed from such an intense religion, it's impossible not to imagine forgiveness or acception--but in real life I guess things can't always be so gray. In short: my slightly negative review was only because the book was filled with sadness for me--I didn't find the joy I remembered from the first book, because it was TOO intensely hard. I think a thread thicker than the connection between artist and protogee was needed--it felt a bit two dimentional, because Asher is forced to give up everything for one thing.
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