I think the thing that 'urked' me more than anything, was how completely unpredictable it was. Every time I thought something was going to happen, it didn't. I'm so used to writers like J.K. Rowling, who, when they put a detail into a book, it is there for a purpose. It's foreshadowing something, it makes a connection of some kind. Here, that wasn't the case.
For example: when Danny's eyes begin to hurt from all the reading he is doing. I thought, is Danny going to go blind? Will that be his 'punishment' for hitting Reuven in the eye with the baseball? (Even though it was as much Reuven's fault as it was Danny's.) Also, when Danny's sister defends Reuven from her father's rage -- her father! That is huge! She stood up to her father for him! And she ends up marrying someone else. That, at least, was a little more resolved than the first example. And another, was when Danny kept telling Reuven he wanted to talk to him about Freud. I never got to hear that conversation! I like their conversations, I was looking forward to it, and it never came. Things like that are the reason I feel mixed up about this book; the things I wanted closure in, didn't get resolved.
Now, on the other hand, there are some amazing little gems all throughout this amazing work.
One part I particularly enjoyed, was the Gematriya section. On pages 127-134 Danny's father is speaking to his congregation, and goes into the Gematriya; the numerical value of letters and words in the Hebrew alphabet. I took the time to write out the words and their values, to make sure his math was correct in every instance (except the one he did wrong on purpose). It was fun :-)
On pages 170-171, Danny teaches me how to really truly study! I went through public education without knowing what it meant to 'study'. Studying for me was looking back over the pre-test or the 'test review'. I don't think my teachers ever expected anything more from me or my classmates. But to see how Danny studies Freud, how he used to study Talmud, is an eye opener for me. I wish that I had 'studied' this book! (As it was there were a lot of words I looked up using Google text.)
At the bottom of page 204, Reuven's father says something that I found insightful and felt to be true. He is looking weak, and when Reuven expresses his concern, his father quotes the Lord speaking to Moses as he is about to die, saying, "You have toiled and labored, now you are worthy of rest." On this subject, Reuven's father goes on to say,
"I learned a long time ago, Reuven, that a blink of an eye in itself is nothing. But the eye that blinks, that is something. A span of life is nothing, but the man who lives that span, he is something. He can fill that tiny span with meaning, so it's quality is immeasurable though it's quantity may be insignificant. Do you understand what I am saying? A man must fill his life with meaning, meaning is not automatically given to life. It is hard work to fill ones life with meaning. That I do not think you understand yet. a life filled with meaning is worthy of rest. I want to be worthy of rest when I am no longer here."
I loved that quote. I can understand why it frightened Reuven, but for any who believe, as I do, in life after death, and the eternal nature of the family, it was so very moving to see a father doing all he could to get meaning out of his mortal life, so that when he returns to his Father, in Heaven, his Father will say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of the lord." (Matthew 25:21) And he shall rest from all his labors. I think the Lord must be pleased with those who try to put meaning into their lives; who help others, and stand up for good and righteousness.
I really did love reading this book. I felt a desire to better myself, and to make sure I always tell the ones I love that I love them. I learned a great deal, I laughed, I cried, I grew to love the characters and have concern for their welfare.
And that is what makes a book, a classic.
Starting now, the book is Laddie: A True Blue Story. Please join me.
Until next time,
The Page Traveler