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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Among the Living: A Novel by Jonathan Rabb

(Thank you to Other Press for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

A moving novel about a Holocaust survivor’s unconventional journey back to a new normal in 1940s Savannah, Georgia.

In late summer 1947, thirty-one-year-old Yitzhak Goldah, a camp survivor, arrives in Savannah to live with his only remaining relatives. They are Abe and Pearl Jesler, older, childless, and an integral part of the thriving Jewish community that has been in Georgia since the founding of the colony. There, Yitzhak discovers a fractured world, where Reform and Conservative Jews live separate lives–distinctions, to him, that are meaningless given what he has been through. He further complicates things when, much to the Jeslers’ dismay, he falls in love with Eva, a young widow within the Reform community. When a woman from Yitzhak’s past suddenly appears–one who is even more shattered by the war than he is–Yitzhak must choose between a dark and tortured familiarity and the promise of a bright new life.

Set amid the backdrop of America’s postwar south, Among the Living grapples with questions of identity and belonging, and steps beyond the Jewish experience as it situates Yitzhak’s story within the last gasp of the Jim Crow era. That he begins to find echoes of his recent past in the lives of the black family who work for the Jeslers–an affinity he does not share with the Jeslers themselves–both surprises and convinces Yitzhak that his choices are not as clear-cut as he might think.

my thoughts:

Wow! What an emotional and powerful read. I absolutely LOVED Jonathan Rabb's wonderful book, Among the Living

Yitzhak Goldah is a Holocaust survivor who moves in with some distant cousins in Savannah, Georgia.  He's a different man following his experience during the war and must now contend with a new town, new people, a new way of life.  His cousins urge him to change his name and he is soon re-christened Ike.  He observes the people and community around him.  He slowly settles into this new life and begins to realize just how much the war has changed him.  No longer one to sweat the trivial things in life, he finds himself falling in love.  The only thing is that his cousins are not happy with his choice, as she belongs to the Reform community and they belong to the Conservative one.  Hmm...what's a man to do?  Follow his heart or his family's wishes?  As Ike attempts to embrace his new life and love, someone from his past shows up on his doorstep to haunt him.  Okay, not really haunt him, but definitely to remind him of the horrors of war and its aftermath.  Through flashbacks we see the war through Ike's eyes and learn about what he had to endure.  We learn how he's been affected by these horrible experiences and the ways in which they still affect him as he tries to move forward with his life.  It truly makes for quite a compelling and sobering read.

Among the Living is an unforgettable story that has stayed with me.  I found the writing to be top notch - the vivid descriptions, the use of history, and the clever way in which race, religion, and life are explored: wow!  I also enjoyed the slow-going pace of the narrative, which I felt added to the melancholy nature of the story.  And the characters are portrayed in such a realistic manner - you can't help but feel for them. Overall, this was truly a memorable read.  In fact, I would characterize Among the Living as a must-read book. 

I would happily recommend Among the Living to fans of Rabb, fans of Jewish Literature, and anyone looking for their next great read - you will LOVE this book!!


Thank you to Other Press for providing me with a copy of this book!

5 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I picked this up at SIBA so I'm glad to see it's so good. Now I have to find the time to read it.

Nadia A said...

Kathy, you will definitely enjoy this one. Its such an emotional read. Let me know what you think of it :)

Lark said...

I can see why you loved this book; it sounds amazing. My list of books to read next year keeps growing and growing...but I have to add this one to it. :)

Nadia A said...

Lark, definitely check this one out next year :) I think you'll enjoy it. And I know what you mean, I have a already have a TBR list for next year, too - LOL!

Philadelphia Life Coach said...

Immensely readable and well-paced, I enjoyed "Among the Living" very very much. There is history, a love story, and several action scenes; this is a novel that would transition to a screenplay or teleplay very easily, and certainly one that I would very much want to watch.