The Chosen by Chaim Potok

The chosenIntroductory quote in the front of the book:

 “When a trout rising to a fly gets hooked on a line and finds himself unable to swim about freely, he begins with a fight which results in struggles and splashes and sometimes an escape. Often, of course, the situation is too tough for him. In the same way the human being struggles with his environment and with the hooks that catch him. Sometimes he masters his difficulties; sometimes they are too much for him. His struggles are all that the world sees and it naturally misunderstands them. It is hard for a free fish to understand what is happening to a hooked one.”  – Karl A. Menninger

Ok, I really, really liked The Chosen. Two boys from different Jewish sects in 1940″s Brooklyn become unlikely best friends. They study everyday of their lives, then they study some more, and then they study some more. Seriously. We see the vast differences in how the boys are raised by their fathers, and how they struggle to maintain their friendship when they have been brutally honest and critical about the other’s deeply rooted beliefs.

Reuven Malter is Orthodox. He desires to be a Rabbi but his father longs for him to excel in mathematics. He has intimate conversations with his father every day and they are very close. Danny Saunders, the Hasidic, is raised in “silence”. He is highly intelligent and has an insatiable appetite to learn everything he can about the world outside of his faith. The only time he and his father speak to one another is when they are studying. His father is cold and sometimes harsh and unapproachable. But it is his father’s explanation at the end of the book, telling both boys the reason that he raised his son in silence, that caused me to weep. At the time that I read it I was having my own struggles and questions about why one of my children was designed the way they are. I was surprised that I could relate so compassionately to the one person in the book that was so difficult to understand or even like.

This book is beautiful. It is so thoughtful and meaningful. I felt so much empathy for Reuven and Danny and for their fathers as well.  Of the 50 books I’ve read on this LOST Challenge, this one is in the TOP TWO.

I've since learned that there was a movie starring Robby Benson. Sigh...

I’ve since learned that there was a movie starring Robby Benson.

3 thoughts on “The Chosen by Chaim Potok

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