The Gift of Asher Lev by Chaim Potok

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

The Gift of Asher Lev by Chaim Potok

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Asher Lev, now a husband and father living in France, has become a world-renowned artist, even as his art continues to grate against his Hasidic Jewish observance. He’s stayed away from the rest of his family and Jewish community back in Brooklyn, but the passing of his uncle draws Asher into a difficult and perplexing journey he isn’t prepared for in The Gift of Asher Lev by Chaim Potok.

Now, in all honesty, if I hadn’t already gotten to know and relate to Asher in the preceding novel, My Name is Asher Lev, one of my all-time favorite books, it’s doubtful that I would have stuck with this sequel from start to finish. The walk through this novel was rather dry and tedious to me at times, but I remained curious to see where this mysterious, mystical leg of Asher’s journey would lead.

Besides, I already knew how this author’s measured and understated but intentional plot development can eventually bring certain details and questions into startling light, which does happen in places in this story.

I couldn’t put into a book review all the reasons why I relate to Asher, an artist, even as I, a writer, don’t share his rather somber outlook on life or what life apparently must be for a serious creative. And for personal reasons I won’t get into, this story wound up angering a part of me—which nothing in the novel could resolve.

Nevertheless, the story served to further impress upon me my takeaways from the previous book, concerning the tension of the unfathomable mystery that can come along with a profound gift. In an essential echo of one of my takeaways from The Chosen, another all-time favorite of mine by this author: greatness is not, and need not be, easily understood.

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Note to my blog readers: this book contains a minimal amount of profanity and some sensual material mostly in regards to art but some non-graphic descriptions in relation to married love. There is, however, an instance of crude sexual language (from an elderly character) that I could’ve done without. 😀

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Here’s my review of My Name is Asher Lev.

 

On the Other Side by Jessica Marie Holt

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

On The Other Side by Jessica Marie Holt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Kevin’s elderly neighbor, Mr. Jones, always has trouble getting into his apartment. So Kevin helps Mr. Jones open his front door in On the Other Side by author Jessica Marie Holt.

A short story. A few pages. About ten minutes of reading time.

Not that I want to preach a sermon on various story forms, here. But this ten-minute tale is a prime example of how a story’s significance is absolutely not a direct equivalent of the story’s length. Short form fiction writing is an art, and while not every author has a knack for getting a complete and compelling message across in just a few well-chosen words, this author does.

What this account about Kevin and Mr. Jones doesn’t say is as important as what it says. Choice tidbits about these two men’s lives and the simple but indicative nature of their brief exchanges tell us enough without expounding on or spelling out every detail for us.

I would that more writers understood the value of trusting a reader’s intelligence and imagination. The power of what’s left unsaid.

Having read this author before, I should’ve known to be prepared with Kleenex. All the little parts that pierced me led to tears running down my face as I finished this poignant and inspiring read.

 

Long Road Home by Jessica Marie Holt

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Long Road Home: A Short Story by Jessica Marie Holt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Long Road Home by Jessica Marie Holt: yet another story I practically knew nothing about before I read it.

Book blurbs can be something of a necessary evil, for publishing and book selling purposes. But I often only skim blurbs or skip them altogether, and in this case, I’m glad I didn’t read the blurb beforehand.

Some stories, especially short ones, are better when you enter them with a blank slate and discover for yourself what’s in the plot. It hits you harder that way.

Granted, what I did know in advance about this tale is who the author is. I’ve never read one of her blurbs before reading one of her stories, but she’s one of the best short story writers I’ve found in quite a while. Such a simple (but not simplistic), deft, poignant style. Such an understanding of human nature, with its strengths and its weaknesses, and the illustration of how, even with our flaws, there’s hope for us.

It’s brilliant when a story can manage to break my heart and then deeply inspire me in less than a half-hour of reading. (Well, it may’ve taken me a bit longer than that, since I had to stop and cry for a few minutes in the middle.) I ran into a few punctuation errors, but nevertheless…

Goodness. Brilliant.

 

Joe by Jessica Marie Holt

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Joe: Book Three in the Homecoming Series by Jessica Marie Holt

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

“If you don’t heal what’s inside, you’ll never feel content, no matter where you go.”

Despite the aspects of his life that have turned out pretty well over the years, Joe hasn’t gotten over a tragedy from his past. When two strangers show up in his coastal town, it might bring just the change—and challenge—he needs in Joe by author Jessica Marie Holt.

I was no less than captivated by the two preceding short stories in the Homecoming series, so I was anxious to see how this novella would wrap it all up. As I mentioned in my review of the previous story, I appreciate the series for illustrating how people can take new risks (chances) and have new adventures later in life.

I’ll admit the pattern of somber openings to the stories started to wear on me this time. Fortunately, this story seems to reach some of the turning-point activity a bit quicker than the others.

Now, something about the development of events is a bit choppy here and there, even kind of chaotic at one point. And now and then, Joe’s role as a bystander near the returning characters’ lives seems somewhat contrived, serving as a substitute for those other characters’ perspectives earlier in the series. The dialogue/paragraphs sometimes made it tricky to identify the speaker, there’s a good amount of double-dash overuse, and it was a little awkward to arrive at “Part 2” when nothing at the beginning of the book said it was a “Part 1.”

Nevertheless, I like this story’s message about self-pity and cowardice, the ending is simply beautiful, and the series as a whole is one of hope. Anyone else who can enjoy wholesome and uplifting contemporary fiction should give this series a go.

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Here’s my review of the first story in the Homecoming series, Elsie.