OK, I’m cheating, I got to read this book for school and now that my paper’s been returned I’m going to double-dip and also post a review here.
The Chosen follows two boys, Reuven and Danny as they negotiate adolescence, friendships, and growing up in close-knit Jewish communities during World War II. Chaim Potok writes it from Reuven’s perspective, using this as a vehicle to show many of his own views and to gently educate readers through the story.
It’s a fascinating book and worth reading despite being commonly assigned to high-school students. (I’m not sure how it is that I only now got assigned to read it, but I did, nonetheless, still enjoy it.)
Woven through the novel are themes of suffering, compassion, love as an action, forgiveness, and the meaning of friendship. It also touches on tensions between religious communities and secular America as well as the interplay between science and faith and interpretations of God and suffering.
It’s a bit hard for me to write reviews of novels as I don’t want to give away the plot or slip in any accidental spoilers.
One theme I found particularly interesting was the tension between silence and communion, between solitude and connection, between suffering and compassion. Potok demonstrates the dance between these quite well in his portrayal of the boys and their fathers.
The Chosen is another great book that shows the power of fiction for education and creating empathy and understanding among human beings.