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The Book of Jonah

3.16  ·  Rating Details ·  799 Ratings  ·  168 Reviews
A major literary debut, an epic tale of love, failure, and unexpected faith set in New York, Amsterdam, and Las Vegas

The modern-day Jonah at the center of Joshua Max Feldman's brilliantly conceived retelling of the book of Jonah is a young Manhattan lawyer named Jonah Jacobstein. He's a lucky man: healthy and handsome, with two beautiful women ready to spend the rest of th
Hardcover, 337 pages
Published February 4th 2014 by Henry Holt and Co. (first published January 21st 2014)
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Apr 29, 2014 David rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, religion, humor
In this novel, Jonah is a Jewish corporate lawyer in New York City, who is just about to be promoted to partner. All he has to do is defend a giant pharmaceutical company from patent infringement. He guesses that the company stole the formula from a small startup company, but will probably win the case by "out-lawyering" it. Meanwhile, Jonah juggles his life between two girlfriends, a serious one and a not-so-serious one.

Jonah sees a couple of visions, and struggles with their meaning. One day h
switterbug (Betsey)
Dec 30, 2013 switterbug (Betsey) rated it it was ok
A modern retelling of the Old Testament's book of Jonah, as well as a second text, that of the widow Judith who decapitated the Assyrian General Holofernes, are the thrust of Max Feldman's story of a young Jewish corporate lawyer climbing to the top of the ladder with an empty soul and a divided heart. Jonah Jacobstein has two beautiful girlfriends devoted to him, and a law firm ready to hand him a meteoric rise to success by doing their dirty work. Jacob is ready to choose one woman and leap in ...more
Jan 07, 2014 jordan rated it liked it
A first novel has a lot in common with meeting someone at a party: introductory information (context, clothes, blurbs) tend towards the shallow, first impressions carry a lot of weight, but it takes a while to settle if this is someone you’d ever want to speak to again (or, in the case of a novel, something you’d like to keep reading). Joshua Max Feldman’s “The Book of Jonah” comes with a lovely cover and blurbs sure to catch attention and an ambitious concept. In terms of first impressions, he ...more
Apr 12, 2015 Sub_zero rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reto-2015
Sobrevivir en un mundo dominado por la avidez, la ambición sin escrúpulos y la flagrante ausencia de ética laboral es un proceso que podría explicarse sin recurrir a ninguna analogía bíblica. Sin embargo, el joven escritor norteamericano Joshua Max Feldman demuestra entre las páginas de El libro de Jonah, su debut como novelista, que dicho recurso resulta en última instancia tan interesante como apropiado. Feldman no solo reinventa en su libro las bases de una historia que, por ser de sobra cono ...more
Aug 11, 2014 Derek rated it did not like it
At first I was on board for this book, a modern retelling of a biblical tale that explores life and faith and meaning. Then 9/11 happened. No, in the story. At that point everything came into stark relief and I became increasingly more frustrated with the whole endeavor. The entire book feels like a rough draft: just a lot of ideas being thrown around with little regard to character or coherent story. Not to mention, a couple of philosophical moments involving a stoner and a priest that I guess ...more
Ron Charles
Nov 13, 2013 Ron Charles rated it liked it
In 2001, Nick Hornby published a discomforting novel called “How to Be Good.” It’s about a man who upends his life by deciding that he will always do what’s right. “Who could live with that?” Hornby asks. Call it the curse of extravagant virtue. Our orderly lives depend upon a certain degree of moral nearsightedness, our ability to moderate the demands of conscience, to ignore the fathomless needs of others much of the time. Lose that and you become a kind of ethical freak, clad in self-righteou ...more
Jul 21, 2016 Bandit rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This one was stunningly difficult to review. It began so auspiciously, so impressively, so lovely and then devolved with a second half so does one account for such disparity? This was suppose to be a good, probably even great, book, a modern take on the famous story, a morality fable condemning or at least satirizing with intent to condemn the brutally soulless finance driven ways of the modern world. Feldman's writing definitely had the strength to carry it too, superbly emotiona ...more
Feb 13, 2014 Bonnie rated it it was amazing
The plot is based on the story of Jonah from the Bible where God asks Jonah to go preach the gospel in Nineveh. Jonah found this order unbearable because not only was Nineveh known for its wickedness, but it was also the capital of the Assyrian empire, one of Israel's fiercest enemies. Instead, Jonah went down to the seaport of Joppa and booked passage on a ship to Tarshish, heading directly away from Nineveh and running away from God. God sends a great storm that swaps the boat he in on and he ...more
Nov 07, 2013 Jessica rated it it was ok
When I read what this book was about, I was really interested in the concept. A modern day tale spun around the story of Jonah in the Bible? Ok, I'll bite.

At the onset, I was interested, but it fizzled rather quickly.

For example: I was curious how they would incorporate the "big fish" capacity- disappointed.

Jonah's arc as a person- Not that much parallel to the story in question after he loses everything.

And the question that kept me keep reading even when I didn't want to- How was the story of
Suzanne Moore
Making the connection to the book of Jonah was sort of a stretch. I see how maybe Feldman was trying to compare Vegas to Nineveh. Jonah Jacobson, the main character, finds himself convicted by a Hasdic Jew he meets on a Subway. Jonah starts having visions, and this sort of reminded me the dreams biblical Jonah has. When biblical Jonah was thrown overboard, to calm the seas, this sort of reminded me of Jonah Jacobson's expulsion from his law firm. I was also thinking about Matisyahu's Hanukkah So ...more
Susan Jacoby
"The Book of Jonah" seems like Christian bookstore fiction with cool, edgy sex and swearing.Which is a bummer because the concept of a modern day retelling of Jonah fascinated me. However, after setting aside the clumsy, uneven way the book tried to echo the biblical story, I attempted to read the novel on its own terms: young high flyer stopped short in his tracks by apparent brush with the supernatural. Nope.The goal then became to satisfy my curiosity about how a parallel storyline would be w ...more
Tova Ross
Sep 27, 2014 Tova Ross rated it it was amazing
I thought it was brilliant. Best anti-hero hero in a long time, and super sharp writing.
Jun 09, 2014 Lphoenix rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
More than halfway through with this, and have developed a querulous, cranky feeling about the story, the uneven writing displayed, and especially the proofreading and content errors that have me re-reading sentences repeatedly, only to confirm that yeah, a word's simply been left out, or yeah, that actually makes no sense. This book screams for the firm hand of an editor--the kind of editor there used to be, who would guide a new author, show where what he wrote simply made no sense, or was clic ...more
Rob Slaven
Dec 30, 2013 Rob Slaven rated it really liked it
As usual I received this book for free for the purposes of review. Unfortunately I can't seem to determine exactly from whom. Whover the source of this unknown beneficence, I give my candid thoughts below.

Having read this, would I pay money for it? Probably not, but I'm on the fence.

This is a bifurcated narrative told from the perspective of two people with rather tragic lives. The story flips back and forth between the two the whole way until... well, in the interest of avoiding spoilers I'll
Jeff Raymond
Retellings of classic/historic stories can always be hit and miss, especially when they're Biblical retellings that are both based on somewhat short texts and when the subject of the text is basically known for one key plot point popularly. If you're someone who isn't familiar with the details of the Jonah story in the Bible, you'll probably spend most of this story wondering what, exactly, the whale is supposed to be.

Anyway, one plotline is Jonah, a lawyer in New York who's career trajectory is
Jill Botkin
Feb 19, 2014 Jill Botkin rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book as a Goodreads first-reads winner.
I requested to read it book because I was interested in how the biblical story of Jonah would be transferred into a modern story. After finishing the book, I don't feel like it really achieved that end. The main character is named Jonah and he has some strange visions that he eventually determines can only have been sent by God but I really didn't feel like there were any other parallels to the biblical story. The book is pretty good and hel
Porter Sprigg
Mar 26, 2016 Porter Sprigg rated it it was ok
This book deals with the emptiness that can derive from the worship of personal success and pleasure. It tries to demonstrate that God is omnipresent with people even in the midst of their depravity and shows that redemption is possible for anyone. Although the message is ultimately a positive one, this book left a really bad taste in my mouth. The book is full of sex scenes that may seem important to character development but are ultimately repetitive and extreme. Also, the main character is so ...more
Sandy H
Mar 03, 2014 Sandy H rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
I started out mostly engaged. I understand what the author is trying to do with Jonah and Judith, but in the end, they're mostly just unlikable characters and I really struggled to have any sort of emotional connection with either of them. I am very familiar with the biblical stories he's basing this novel on and while I could appreciate from an objective sense what the author was trying to do, as a novel, I just couldn't get into it. I like the first third of the book but got bogged down in the ...more
Alex Marshall
Aug 06, 2015 Alex Marshall rated it really liked it
Contrary to many of the reviews I've read I actually thought this got stronger as it went along. Feared from the start it would be just another 'mid-life crisis in the city' story and I'd only finish it so I didn't feel like I'd wasted my time reading the first 50 pages, but the pacing and characters were what actually kept me going and I thought the ending was great. Googled it afterwards and saw it was getting a lot of praise in Jewish circles. I'm not Jewish. Don't know what that says about m ...more
Mar 20, 2014 Chloé rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads
**I received it via First Reads**

Maybe it is because I'm an atheist and did not get many biblical references, but this book did not appeal to me at all. I found the writing good- not great- and the characters were of no particular interest. I did not relate to this novel in any way. It is not bad, simply not my cup of tea...
Jun 12, 2014 Ross rated it liked it
I went in expecting something more like Dara Horn's The World to Come or Everything is Illuminated, i.e., magical realism with some Jewish mysticism. Really, it's just a book about a stressed out firm lawyer which I really don't need to read about.
Jamie Olson
I was expecting so much from this book, and feel quite let down. The beginning dragged while the end moved too quickly. A disappointing read.
Mar 17, 2017 Quinn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
A really well written story about a man who has everything--two girlfriends who both want to marry him, a job as a corporate lawyer with the step to partnership just being laid out, a fabulous apartment. And then he meets someone on the subway who gives him a spiritual lecture that makes no sense. He goes to a cousin's birthday party and has a vision. And suddenly, he no longer has anything. Everything he touches crumbles into dust.
Is this a re-telling of the rather misunderstood biblical Jonah
Joseph Richardson
Mar 06, 2014 Joseph Richardson rated it liked it
Note: May contain spoilers. Proceed with caution.

Looking back, there isn’t a single adjective one could use to describe Joshua Max Feldman’s debut novel, The Book of Jonah. At times, the tale being told is entertaining, engaging, and suspenseful. However, there are other instances where the writing comes off as boring, uninspired, and cliched (particularly in the narrative’s closing moments). It is this aspect alone that makes The Book of Jonah such a unique experience. As I read those final sen
Sara Diane
I got this from NetGalley to preview.

It sounded like an intriguing story, but I just couldn't connect with any of the characters, and after a few chapters I realized I just didn't care. And I have too many books to read to keep reading one I don't care about.
May 16, 2014 Ashley rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014, fiction-general
The Book of Jonah by Joshua Max Feldman is a modern-day retelling of the Biblical story of Jonah. For those unfamiliar with the story of Jonah a very brief summary – Jonah disobeys an order from God and attempts to flee by boarding a ship and setting sail in the exact opposite direction of the land where God had ordered him to go. God sent a storm which nearly destroyed the ship but Jonah was cast overboard after being determined to be responsible for the punishment. Instead of drowning Jonah wa ...more
Sep 09, 2014 Corey rated it liked it
Shelves: jewish
Emmm… I really wanted to like this book a lot more than I did… not sure why. The premise was quite original – a modern-day retelling of the biblical story of Jonah that got swallowed by the whale. Many aspects of the main characters, Jonah and Judith, their lives and personalities were realistic and recognizable. The book was well-written but, ultimately, some parts of the plot made no sense to me and I didn’t get the motivations for the characters’ actions or the POINT of the book. I felt like ...more
Sep 24, 2016 Devorah rated it liked it
Shelves: judaica
This book was well written and I found both Jonah and Judith engaging and challenging in believable ways. I liked the element of the supernatural upending your planned life and having to deal with / struggle with how to remake it with any semblance of meaning. Endings are hard and this one was not entirely satisfying but not explicitly false. I would definitely read another book by Feldman.
Renae, Lady Disdain
This is one of the more unusual, thought-provoking novels I’ve read in a while. Joshua Max Feldman’s debut, The Book of Jonah, is at once secular, religious, and both at once. It is, I suppose, a story about doing God’s will and recognizing God’s presence in a seemingly uninspired world. It’s more than that, though, and like most literary fiction, this book kind of defies explanation. You have to read it to understand what I’m talking about, I guess.

As is doubtless obvious, The Book of Jonah is
May 05, 2014 Kerfe rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads, fiction
I looked through my 3-star fiction reviews and one word jumped out at me: predictable. Cliché, made-for-TV-movie, corny--they all appear too. But "predictable" seems to be the key. And this book? Yes it is.

Stereotypes exist for a reason; there's a grain of truth, sometimes even a full cup of truth, there. OK, the world is shallow. Money talks. Sincerity and trust are hard to come by. But even the most obnoxious and annoying over-achievers have parts of them, details and distinctions, that don't
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Joshua Max Feldman is a writer of fiction and plays. Born and raised in Amherst, Massachusetts, he has lived in England, New York, and Switzerland. He currently resides in south Florida. THE BOOK OF JONAH, his first novel, will be published February 4th, 2014 by Henry Holt, and is currently available for preorder.
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“...this was false hope - a sustaining myth between them. They didn't struggle on account of a failure to find the solution to their problems: There was not some mode of togetherness that...would make him feel that her love had depth and warmth, that she wanted to be with him and not a version of him that she might fashion. Their problems were a fact of their togetherness itself.” 1 likes
“said such things to her seemed so much to appreciate” 0 likes
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