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3.53  ·  Rating details ·  289 ratings  ·  85 reviews
The Pulitzer finalist delivers his best work yet--a brilliant, streamlined comic novel, reminiscent of early Philip Roth and of his own most masterful stories, about a son's failure to say Kaddish for his father

Larry is an atheist in a family of orthodox Memphis Jews. When his father dies, it is his responsibility as the surviving son to recite the Kaddish, the Jewish pray
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published March 26th 2019 by Knopf Publishing Group
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june3 No, this book is so much more complicated than this. No bashing anyone!! I'm still working out exactly how I feel about it, but it's more of a complex…moreNo, this book is so much more complicated than this. No bashing anyone!! I'm still working out exactly how I feel about it, but it's more of a complex and deeply satisfying satire on the power of ritual and symbols.(less)

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3.53  · 
Rating details
 ·  289 ratings  ·  85 reviews

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Elyse Walters
Apr 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
I’ve read many short stories by Nathan Englander, but this is the first novel I’ve read by him.

When the story begins, we learn that Larry’s father has just died. He’s at his sisters house in Memphis, Tennessee - ‘having’ to sit shivah when the story begins. Larry’s sister, Dina, is driving him insane. She’s ruthless about the ancient rituals. They must be observed correctly according to Jewish law.
Larry, Dina, and their family grew up in an ultra-orthodox Jewish home in Royal Hills, Brooklyn.
Ron Charles
“” is a novel, but its first part serves as another reminder of Nathan Englander’s extraordinary skill as a short story writer. Set 20 years before the rest of the book, it describes a contentious family gathering following a patriarch’s death. Larry — the black sheep — has come from Brooklyn to stay with his Orthodox sister in Memphis as they sit shiva. Despite hearing the “quiet, muttering stream of well-wishers,” he feels harshly appraised. “I want them not to judge me just because ...more
Lark Benobi
Apr 10, 2019 rated it liked it
People compare Nathan Englander to Philip Roth and it's a superficially fair comparison only in that they are both Jewish and they both have a talent for writing scenes that include masturbation.

But Roth lived at a time when he felt his goals included defining for his readers what it meant to be a secular American Jew--with the emphasis on "American." His characters are Jewish, yes, but in a mostly secular way, where the obligation and identity are sublimated, and where their greater goal as ch
Apr 02, 2019 rated it it was ok

Like many secular Jews, I am a fan of Philip Roth, whose irreverent audacious writing did not shy away from tackling the issue of Jewish identity in the United States, especially the generational conflicts between the more conservative religious generation and younger and more secular liberal youth that shaped the community in the post WW2 years.

So I was excited to see Nathan Englander’s new book,, be compared to the early writing of Roth. Englander was a Pulitzer finalist for a p
When Larry’s father dies in 1999, sitting shiva at his sister’s house in Memphis is as much as he can cope with; he knows he’ll never manage to pray for his father’s soul for a whole year, as is his duty in Orthodox Judaism. Once he’s back in New York City he’s unlikely to even set foot in a synagogue. Camping out in his nephew’s room, he breaks off from Internet porn long enough to find a website that promises a yeshiva student in Jerusalem will say the Kaddish for his father – for a price.

Jenny (Reading Envy)
Apr 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
"Larry is an atheist in a family of orthodox Memphis Jews. When his father dies, it is his responsibility as the surviving son to recite the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, every day for eleven months. He hatches an ingenious if cynical plan, hiring a stranger through a website called"

This novel is a quick read and not as dense as the last one from this author, but Larry is a likeable fool of a character who is still able to go on a deeper journey of self-examination, in
Apr 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Oy!! Where to begin? I’m of conflicting opinions when it comes to reviewing Nathan Englander’s newest work, I want to give it four stars because I really like the author and the way he writes. But, for almost all of the second half, I felt mostly annoyed and even a bit contemptuous of the main character, Larry turned Shuley. I came to having read Englander’s short story What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank and absolutely loved it. I received the hard copy boo ...more
Wendy Cosin
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Short and amusing, is about an American Jewish religious man's quest to properly say Kaddish for his father. Although I am Jewish, I didn't understand the what I assume are Yiddish words, but I got the gist of it. I found the beginning, when the main character was not religious, particularly funny, but I enjoyed the whole book. I easily predicted where the book was going, but that didn't matter either. It is an interesting, light picture of a religious Jewish man and his family.

I rec
Jennifer S. Brown
This book delighted me. A short but thought-provoking novel about a religious man who goes OTD (off the derech, aka, becomes no longer religious). His religious family insists he say kaddish, the mourner's prayer, for his father. Because he knows he won't, he finds a website where he can pay someone to say kaddish for him. The bulk of the book takes place about 20 years later, when he's religious and has to pay the emotional consequences of what he did. The book is by turns charming, funny, sad, ...more
Bruce Katz
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-fiction
In "," Englander ventures into territory more commonly explored by writers like Jonathan Tropper, and maybe early Philip Roth and Joseph Heller. Quick bursts of humor, characters drawn in broad satirical strokes, serious questions cloaked in jester's garb, and beneath it all a hunger for what religion and tradition are for and what it means to be a Jew in the world.

The books opens at a shiva (a Jewish ritual performed when a loved one dies) in Tennessee. The deceased was father to Lar
Daniel Hensel
Dec 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Keep your eye out for a Morning Edition conversation with Nathan Englander in March. We'll see if it works out.

Don't want to divulge too much of my opinion, but one of my graduate student instructors in college told me she preferred Englander's short stories to his novels. This is the first novel of his I've read, but I agree with the idea. For whatever reason, the sort of plot-based parables that Englander can seemingly concoct out of thin air work in short form.

I found the time jump surprising
Cherise Wolas
Larry, a 30-year-old lapsed Orthodox Jew, is in his sister's home in Memphis, Tennessee, sitting shiva for his father. When shiva ends, it will be his responsibility to say the Mourner's Kaddish for his father several times a day for eleven months, a responsibility he doesn't want to take on. But a service,, will, for a sum, provide an Orthodox talmudic student to say that prayer in accordance with the rules. And Larry signs up. When we next meet Larry, twenty years have passed, he h ...more
Judy G
Apr 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I suspect that this book will be meaningless for someone who is not Jewish and within the jewish circle it will b more meaningful for those of us who grew up orthodox. I cannot imagine how anyone outside can relate to this
This is an amazing tale just cannot imagine how anyone could create this story so in ordinary speak it is about a man Larry who becomes a Rabbi and ends up in Israel by way of Brooklyn. In some ways this is like a fairy tale cause it is so unreal.
There are various characters
Dec 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A hilarious and moving story about a man who is searching for meaning in his life. Larry, who has left the folds of Orthodox Judaism, is sitting shiva for his father at his sister's Memphis home. When his sister urges him to make a promise to say Kaddish (the Jewish prayer for the dead), Larry reluctantly agrees. He then finds a website,, that employs students who will say the prayer for mourners for the requisite 11 months. He pays the fee, gets a confirmation, and goes back to his ...more
Jill Meyer
Mar 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
The year is 1999 and Larry is in Memphis, Tennessee, at his sister's house, preparing for the funeral and shiva of this father. The father, who seems to have been a fairly wise man, has sickened suddenly and died, while visiting his daughter. Larry, who at the age of 30, has left the rigorous practice of Orthodox Judaism he was raised in. He and his father talked before his death about Larry saying Kaddish for the required eleven months after his father's death. Larry couldn't commit to saying K ...more
Laura Spira
Mar 24, 2019 rated it did not like it
I have tried to appreciate Englander's humour but all I can manage is the occasional wry smile. Larry is an Orthodox Jewish apostate who delegates reciting Kaddish for his father to an unknown yeshiva student via a web site but later returns to his faith and tries to trace the student, with a little (not unexpected) twist at the end of his quest.

As a plot, it's a bit thin and Larry/Shuli is not a convincing character. If the book is intended as satire, it was so gentle that I missed it. His expl
Apr 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
I often laughed out loud, but also felt moments of sadness in Englander's comic novel, reminiscent of the best of early Phillip Roth. Throughout this perceptive parable-like text, Englander explored the clash and links between the secular and religious Jewish worlds. Although he may have hoped for a wider audience, his inclusion of so many rituals, Hebrew words without translation, and references to Jewish culture may have distanced the non-Jewish reader.

At the centre of this stunning story is L
Apr 15, 2019 rated it liked it
I loved What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, but all of his other books since have never been as good. This one went in a different direction than I expected, and one I wish would've had more explanation/description of how it came about.. It's not bad, it's just not as thorough or believable as I'd have liked.
Angie Boyter
Feb 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: edelweiss
When secular Jew Larry goes to the home of his devout Orthodox sister Dina to sit shivah for their deceased father, it is not surprising that sparks should fly. Dina insists that Larry carry out the male responsibility to say kaddish, which requires multiple daily prayers for the dead for eleven months. This Larry refuses to do personally, but he finds a modern solution in, an internet site that will take over that responsibility for a fee. Finding changes Larry’s life in ...more
Philip Cohen
Apr 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
It started out engaging and interesting and well written and the characters were compelling. It ended stupidly. The flap says "irreverent," but don't believe it. In the end it's the opposite, and nothing is illuminated.
Gil Roth
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed it, esp. as a fusion of his short-story and novel-writing modes. We recorded a podcast conversation shortly before the book was released (I also go more in-depth in my review of it). The episode is at if you’d like to give it a listen
Dec 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I wasn't sure what to expect, especially after reading the first chapter. But, I loved it! It reminded me a bit of Andrew Greer's book Less in that the main character is somewhat pathetic but utterly likeable.
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was claustrophobic for me, but still I couldn't stop reading it because in every chapter something new was going to happen and, even if it wasn't, I couldn't stop, because I was fearing the worst. So I read it in one setting and was not disappointed because I liked it a lot, not his best novel, but still....

Questo libro é stato claustrofobico per me, dall'inizio alla fine e infatti l'ho letto in un'unica sessione, perché ogni capitolo prometteva nuovi sviluppi da temere e non riuscivo
Feb 02, 2019 rated it did not like it
I won a copy from a Goodreads giveaway.

I couldn't wait to to finish this book. Not because it was good, but because I had little to no empathy for the protagonist. It felt rushed and without any buildup. I thought that some background in the main character's life would help explain why he did a 180 in the first part and another in the second. There was very little background on anyone, so the entire book felt like it scratched the surface, which never gave me any interest in caring about what ha
Nov 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Do you believe in karma? The Jewish son of a recently deceased father does. Only he's too lazy to follow his father's last wishes and instead hires someone...via the wonder of the Internet, of course, to read kaddish for him. What transpires from that is just one of many lessons in this funny and heartwarming book.
Mar 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a truly fascinating and clever novel.
I will read this again a few years from now.

As the book opens, we meet Larry, the renegade, who is sitting shiva (observing the ritual seven days of mourning) at his observant sister Dina's home within a strict Orthodox-Jewish community in Memphis. Amidst the hordes of visiting neighbors who are fulfilling the Mitzvah (commandment) to comfort the mourners, Dina feels loved, but Larry feels judged; Dina is at home, while Larry is jumping out of his skin.
Cheryl Sokoloff
Mar 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
To say I was excited to read Nathan Englander’s latest book is an understatement. So, to clarify this for anyone interested, in one day (and a half), I read the book and listened to the audible as well. Without a doubt, I adored Larry/ Shuli. I laughed and worried and empathized with Shuli, but I also adored and empathized with Miri, Shuli’s Wife, with Gabriel the Yeshiva student who also had a dead father, and finally with Rav Katz and Dudu. What a crazy adventure is Shuli’s- in order to achiev ...more
Apr 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
I received this book from the publisher so thank you!
I really enjoyed this book - I was in the mood for a light story and got just what I wanted. Without giving too much away, the story starts with Larry at the funeral of his father, sitting shivah with his Orthodox Jewish sister and her family. Larry has fallen away from tradition, outsourcing his responsibilities as male descendant.

There are obviously serious components to the storyline as we follow this family through Jewish tradition and re
Mar 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Englander is at his best here, telling tales of loss and redemption. This story reads like a parable, a modern day tale of unfulfilled duties and broken communication. It is telling that in his novel Ministry of Special Cases, Englander's the lead character is named "Kaddish" both for his role to mourn those who pay and then because he erases the past all together.
In, Shaul/Larry/Shuli (all one man in transition) makes a Faustian bargain that he believes will absolve him of his duti
Bobby  Title
Apr 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Bobby by:
I haven't read such a funny book in a long time. I took it with me to a doctor appointment yesterday and while I cooled my heels in the waiting room, I startled more than a few people by laughing out loud. I have not read anything by this author previously, and you can bet I'll go after the earlier books he's written.

I do believe a reader needs a modicum of familiarity with things Jewish, especially Hebrew words, as well as some of the more conservative practices to get the full enjoyment and u
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Nathan Englander is a Jewish-American author born in Long Island, NY in 1970. He wrote the short story collection, For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., in 1999. The volume won widespread critical acclaim, earning Englander the 2000 PEN/Faulkner Malamud Award and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Sue Kauffman Prize, and established him as an important write ...more
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