My Name is Asher Lev (Book Review)

Potok

This is the second book I’ve read by Chaim Potok. He is quite the author. His books read so realistically that you actually feel like you know the people he’s writing about and are seeing their lives play out in real time. Truly an amazing gift. And his stories are profound. They are both intellectually stimulating and emotionally charged. Very satisfying stories to read.

asher levAnd I can detect a theme. Both books (the other one I read was The Chosen) have these father-son relationships that are, at the same time, highly intimate, yet deeply complex, and often terribly strained. Father’s who seem to be preoccupied, yet who are still keenly aware of the relational hunger of the son – sometimes meeting it, sometimes not. And even when they don’t, they somehow manage to retain the hearts of their son’s through wisdom speech and endearing thoughtfulness. Busy father’s and hungry sons make for perennial and universal themes.

And the mother… oh, the mother in this story. What can I say? Aside from her deep sacrificial nature (or shall I say because of it), she was terribly preoccupied herself. But, oh, how she love her boy. And how Asher loved her. Come to think of it, everyone in this family was preoccupied. Fiercely devoted to their own pursuits and to their own means of self expression. Yet the tenderness in this family and their honest attempts of support was beholding to the reader. Regardless of the radically moving parts of this family, the whole bound it all together. But, here’s the question: can the whole always support the parts? Or are there limits? Can one abide by the limits forever? Are love and support one and the same? Potok explores these questions and leaves the reader to grapple with the answer.

I consider Potok’s writing to be works of art. They are touching, without being frivolous or whimsical. And they are beautiful, yet at the same time painfully honest. The main subject of this story was about an amazing painter, but it was the portrait that Potok created that made me realize who the real painter was.

A deep and penetrating exploration into the nature of calling and acceptance.

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