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Total Immersion

3.33  ·  Rating details ·  134 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
In "The Succession," the members of a prosperous Hawaii synagogue agree on almost nothing. But when the president of the synagogue absconds with a small fortune, far deeper—and more troubling—rifts emerge...In "The Closet," Evelyn's sister flees her family to take up residence in the attic—while the shunned Evelyn finds herself slipping into the waters of her sister's soul ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published August 10th 1998 by Dial Press Trade Paperback (first published 1989)
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Adele Goetz
Oct 17, 2010 rated it did not like it
How are you supposed to enjoy a book without one appealing character?
Aug 17, 2017 rated it liked it
A good collection of related stories, but I didn't feel compelled to finish. I prefer Allegra Goodman's less religious writings. I feel a little lost with the heavy Judaism. It's interesting, but just doesn't do much for me.
Dec 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Allegra Goodman's first set of short stories introduces readers like me, who are traveling largely backwards through her collection, to familiar places, cultures and characters. The very first story, "Onionskin," is an excerpt out of Paradise Park. Our beloved Markowitz family, featured in their own collection of short stories published a decade later, are included, through the perspectives of the two brothers, in "Young People" and "Wish List." Other, new characters crop up in different stories ...more
May 01, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Contrary to the back cover blurbs extolling her deep insight into a wide variety of characters from different backgrounds, Goodman's writing (though let's keep in mind she was in her early twenties and this was her first book of short stories) struck me as two-dimensional. Her 'understanding' seemed to encompass only the already well-trodden worlds of arrogant back-biting ivy-league intellectuals and dysfunctional american jewish families. I get the feeling most praise for her work was based on ...more
Jan 08, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: inner-beach
Collection of short stories == Goodman has a very sharp sense of humor and her characters are interesting, with distinct voices. From 'Onionskin': "Because obviously I am not eighteen and I work, so school is not an academic exercise for me, and not just me, as I'm sure you'd realize if you looked around the room one of these days and saw there are thirty- and forty-year-olds and some a lot older than you are in the class -- the point is, when you've been through marriage, kids, jobs, welfare, a ...more
Feb 20, 2010 rated it liked it
This book is populated by lunatics. The stories interconnect because all of the characters are connected to a community of Jewish people living in Hawaii, but I found the connections hard to capture. The stories drift about and flash freeze moments in time, and many things happen but nothing happens. Families bicker, and love each other, and couples struggle to understand each other and support each other but fail miserably. And everyone is so unhappy! I found myself futilely trying to understan ...more
Sep 20, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
"...which I aplogize for tone-wise but not for the feelings behind it" (2).
"We had to keep a gun out there too, which was a pain in the ass morally, because I've always been a complete pacifist" (7).
"The playground reminds Cecil of a hamster habitat he once saw displayed in a pet-store window" (27).
"And in fact had written to his father in the hospital about the 'ugly woman.' 'She's nothing to write home about,' he had written" (28).
"...old historians who have grown so eminent that modest qualif
Oct 13, 2010 rated it liked it
Goodman is a great satirist who perfectly spots the status symbols and petty remarks that reveal much more about a person than he or she intended. Her target is affluent, professional, observant Jews in Hawaii, Oxford, and New York. I take pleasure in her prose but her characters are mostly repellent, giving the book a nihilistic feel, overall. Reminds me of "Madame Bovary" - all that skill in creating an ultimately airless world where characters have no hope of self-awareness and self-transcend ...more
Sep 13, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
In a series of short stories, Goodman takes the reader to New York, Oxford, and Hawaii. Stories include:

Onionskin, a tale in which a woman explains why she walked out of a religion class;
The Succession, an account of a new rabbi’s appointment at Honolulu’s Martin Buber Temple; and
Fait’, a story in which college student Ginnie returns to Oahu for her sister’s wedding, only to be confronted by some disturbing family truths.

This collection is okay, but I’d rather read a novel by Ms. Goodman.
Jun 27, 2013 rated it it was ok
Had the same experience as I have had before when I encounter this author--story looks interesting, beginning intriguing and then I get part way through and wonder why I began the book. I never got my rhythm with this one finished with a shrug of the shoulders. Goodman aims to make statements about giant topics....religion, success, relationships but tends to just miss making meaty one or provoking ones!
Gayla Bassham
I love Allegra Goodman's work -- her novel Intuition is one of my favorite books -- but this lightly-linked collection of short stories is not her best. There are definitely some great moments, and some sharply observed characters, but none of the stories really resonated with me.
Mar 11, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: private-reading
For the record, never have immersed myself in Jewish life before. I enjoyed the writing. Her setting in Hawaii put a beautiful spin on each story. Great intertwining of each character although almost needed a cheat-sheet.
Sep 21, 2009 rated it liked it
Probably the best collection of interrelated short stories about observant Jews in Hawaii you will ever read.
Erika Dreifus
Read it in 1989, but rereading now, inspired to do so by
Stacey Palevsky
Jun 07, 2008 rated it liked it
I don't think these stories are anything special. THe first one is clever and funny, but some of the others felt plodding and slow.
Depressing. Spot on.
Jun 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Short stories, mainly set it Hawaii, interesting and some very good descriptions.
Feb 08, 2011 rated it did not like it
Couldn't get past the second story! Such a bummer. LOVED "The Cookbook Collector" and liked "Intuition," but couldn't dig through the heavy religious focus of this one.
Jan 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great ear for dialogue, eye for odd but true detail.
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Feb 12, 2009
Leora Eisenberg
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Feb 23, 2007
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May 26, 2008
Kim Berkshire
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Jul 06, 2008
Lisa Stempler
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May 02, 2013
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Hello, Good Readers! It's a pleasure to meet you!

I was born in Brooklyn, but I grew up in Honolulu. When I was a seven year old living in Hawaii, I aspired to become a novelist--but I began by writing poetry and short stories.

In high school and college I focused on short stories and in June, 1986, I published my first in "Commentary." My first book was a collection of short stories, "Total Immersi
More about Allegra Goodman...