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3.32  ·  Rating details ·  1,895 ratings  ·  342 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, 203 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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 ·  1,895 ratings  ·  342 reviews

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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 really liked it
People compare Nathan Englander to Philip Roth and it's a 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 characters is to
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.
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, which I absolutely loved. I received the hard copy b ...more
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 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommended to Michelle by: Millions Most Anticipated
At first I wasn't sure if I would like this book but after about 50 pages or so I was reeled in. Not being Jewish myself I didn't understand a few of the Yiddish words and was unaware of some of the traditions. But I feel the overall concept of youthful rebellion and then returning as we age to practice and observe family values is something many of us can relate to. An interesting take on what it means to be an observant Jew in modern America.
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
Joe Kraus
How has it come to this?

Nathan Englander may well be the finest current practitioner of the Jewish short story. His “For the Relief of Unbearable Urges,” “How We Avenged the Blums,” and “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank” are all at least minor masterpieces, and I can’t imagine teaching a Jewish-American literature class without at least mentioning him these days.

But someone, maybe him and maybe his agent, has told him he has to turn out a novel in order to be genuinely big time.

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
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
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
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 his 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 Ka ...more
Danny 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
Apr 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
In, Nathan Englander sends his protagonist where I never imagined him going; he does this again and again and again. . . . Englander didn't write the book that I was hoping for; that is, obviously, not the author's fault. is fine fiction, and it is quite interesting. However, I cannot say, "You don't have to be Jewish," to understand or appreciate it -- you DO.
Dana Susan
May 01, 2019 rated it did not like it
I found nothing to like in this completely improbable story of a lapsed Jew who returns to the fold but can’t exorcize his guilt. Although not a bad premise I found the characters and plot twists unbelievable and not worth suspending my disbelief.

So disappointed as I’ve liked this author’s works in the past. Go figure.
kglibrarian  (Karin Greenberg)
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
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
Gayla Bassham
Dec 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2019-reads
I liked this book quite a bit and yet also found it deeply problematic. You can't approach it as a realist novel; that will only frustrate you, because Englander doesn't really investigate his characters deeply and much of the plot is implausible. It works, I think, as a novel of ideas--ideas about faith, duty, responsibility, and tradition. I can't call it a satisfying read; when I finished it I felt unsettled. But I want to go back to it -- I think there's a lot to unpack in this deceptively s ...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.
Jul 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I had not heard of Nathan Englander until an online book club decided to read a book of his short stories in one of our future reads. I decided I’d see what sort of writer he was and randomly chose, and what a joy it was to read.

In this book, Larry, a Jewish man by birth but certainly not in actual practice, is tasked, as the only son, to recite the Mourner’s Kaddish for his recently deceased father; a task, or mitzvah (commandment) that very observant Jews do every day for
Megan (ReadingRover)
The first part of this story of a man’s failure to live up to his responsibilities as a son to recite the Kaddish each day for 11 months after his father passes away. Instead he pays a website to have a student say it for him. The second part is about his search for redemption for slacking on his duties as a son. He seeks out the student from the website in order to reclaim the birthright he gave up.
My only complaint was that between the two parts there was no transition. It was difficult to te
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: posseduto
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
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.
Daniel Sevitt
Jun 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
I really struggle to see who the target audience for this is beyond me and one or two of my friends. Profane first, then sacred it’s just an unusual way of relating to Judaism, filial love and honoring the memory and soul of the dead. I loved it, I’m just not sure anyone else would.
Greer Hendricks
Jul 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Eh, I had high hopes for this book but it was a bit disappointing. The character's conclusion after his long quest is nowhere near the conclusion you'd expect after so much build up. It was well written, but the plot didn't do very much for me. Others might enjoy this book but it just wasn't my cup of tea!
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.
Actual rating: 2.5 stars because this book betrayed me.

Have you ever sat Shiva in a city you don't live in?
Or maybe, a more universal question - have you ever gone to the funeral of a relative who lives in a different city, one you've never lived in? Then you find yourself awkwardly fielding condolences from people you've never met before, people you've barely heard of in your life, who all knew your relative in a much different manner than you did. That emotion is captured perfectly in the fir
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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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“You wouldn't leave me?" he'd asked her honestly afraid.
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