I had my doubts about this book, but it turned out to be pretty good.
What struck me first about this book was how it showed the psyche of the Jewish people. David, the main character, is often viewed as a literal reincarnation. His beginning is marred by the ending of others. Through this symbolism, Potok shows how David has inherited the trauma of thousands of years of persecution. It in part marks the long memory of a culture and in other ways serves as a reminder of the psychological scarring that can haunt people for an eternity.
Above all, what I loved most was how empathetic David is as a character. Not only is he smart, but his constant entreaties of “I don’t understand” and questioning the world around him is very telling. In part this reminds us that we shouldn’t have to understand, because man’s inhumanity to man does not always make sense. But more than that the character allows recognises from a very young age that there is more to humanity than his own culture.
Seeing this through a child’s viewpoint is especially eye-opening. Much like other Potok characters, David is keen to step outside his culture and seek truth. But what I found particularly admirable in him- and what made me feel an especial kinship with him as I have not always found in Potok’s characters- was that it was his compassion that ultimately drove him to explore the world beyond his own.
In the end, I would rate this:
Have you read any Potok books? And what character did you find to be particularly relatable lately? Let me know in the comments!