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Kaaterskill Falls: A Novel (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – 10. August 1998

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Allegra Goodman's remarkable first novel intertwines the stories of three Orthodox Jewish families, each of whom is tugged between religious tradition and the secular world. The story takes place in the upstate New York town of Kaaterskill, summer Mecca for the tightly knit Kirshner sect. Model wife and mother Elizabeth Shulman pictures her community as a sort of Mont-Saint-Michel, an island both joined and separated from the outside world as if by rising and falling tides. Fascinated with what lies on the spiritual mainland, she hides behind the reassuring rhythms of religious observance, though she's inspired with a "desire, as intense as prayer," to create something all her own.

Despite her pious husband's doubts, she does, in the form of a store catering to Kaaterskill's "summer people"--a community Goodman brings memorably to life. The Shulmans' neighbor Andras Melish, a Hungarian who fled World War II and a vanished world of assimilated European Jewry, struggles to understand his young Argentinian wife Nina, whose need for tradition grows with each passing year. The ailing Rav Kirshner must decide which son will carry on in his shoes: dutiful but plodding Isaiah or his brilliant but secular brother Jeremy. Andras and Nina's daughter befriends an Arab girl, while Elizabeth and Isaac's daughter dreams in secret of Israel. Meanwhile, the town's year-round residents observe the Orthodox newcomers with bewilderment and occasional dismay.

As she proved in a warm and funny 1996 collection of stories, The Family Markowitz, Goodman is an unparalleled observer of human nature. Here, she charts with quiet assurance the daily rhythms of Kaaterskill: the meals prepared and eaten, the Holy Days observed, the ebb and flow of married life. Goodman gets all the important details right; her children's dialogue, for instance, is unerring. Above all, however, she brings to the subject of religious life a seriousness and subtlety rarely found in recent fiction. Wise was the word used again and again to describe The Family Markowitz. Applied to Kaaterskill Falls, it is no less apt.


Praise for Allegra Goodman:

"The brushstrokes seemingly casual yet sure, always the exact—and unlikely—equivalent of a shadow or reflected gleam."—Anna Shapiro, New York Newsday

"An astonishing display of virtuosity."—Los Angeles Times on Total Immersion

"Exceptionally well written: funny, wise, keenly observed....One of the most maddening and recognizable families to come along in years...an enchanting book."—Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times on The Family Markowitz

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Format: Taschenbuch
Congratulations or more aptly "Yashe Koach" (a popular Jewish term for "A job well done.") on Kaaterskill Falls. At first, I was drawn to the novel because it centers around a distinctive Ultra Orthodox Jewish community (i.e., the Washington Heights Kirshners.) Ironically, however, I ended the book deeply touched by the universal themes it so poignantly dramatized: e.g., those of father and son, as in the case of the Rav and Jeremy; those of brother to brother, as in the case of Jeremy and Isaiah; and, those of generation to generation, as in the case of Andras and his young wife, Nina. All three of the main characters are richly layered and likeable people. I was particularly taken by Elizabeth, a homemaker longing to create something of her own outside of the home. I applauded her spunkiness and was saddened by her feelings of entrapment. We see the world through the unique eyes of the three main characters: Elizabeth, Andras and the Rav. We are privy to their internal tug of wars. And while their struggles touch on universal themes, the individuals themselves are not stereotypes. In fact, they often take us by surprise; for example, the dogmatic Rav reminisces about German secular culture. At its core, Kaaterskill Falls is about character development. If you're looking for fast action and complex plot lines, look somewhere else.
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Format: Taschenbuch
I loved this book! As a secular Jew, I have often wondered how Orthodox women have been able to reconcile their intellectual, spiritual, familial, and cultural worlds in an atmosphere that seems to deny them voice. Allegra Goodman has done an outstanding job of developing strong characters whose struggles to define themselves and their world often puts them at odds with all they have been taught to believe. I admired Elizabeth even as I became impatient with her; likewise I anxiously awaited Nina's growth that would allow her to assume status within her husband's family. I've recommended this book to many people; I was literally transported into the world of Katerskill Falls, and didn't want to leave.
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Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Although this novel has received excellent reviews in all the major newspapers, it does not live up to its supposed reputation. I had never read either of Ms. Goodman's previous literary efforts, but decided to read it on the basis of the reviews in the New York Times. Since the chief plot of the work revolves arournd the so called Kirshner community theWashington Heights section of New York, I was also interested in reading it as I too have lived there for the last 10 years. Its no secret that the Kirshners are in real life the Breuers community of Washington Heights known as KAJ.In my opinion the book fails miserably in conveying to the reader the distinctivness of this refuggee Orthodox German community as compared to other ultra Orthodox communities in lets say Lakewood, NJ,, Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY or other strictly observant communities in Riverdale, NY, and other areas of greater NY. What are the distinguishing features of the Kirshners ? What is their theology,all about, whats is their distinctive religious theology. Rabbi Kirshner must do more than supervise kosher bakeries and answer Halachic inquiries (in real life such functions were carried out by the dayanim of the Breuer community that is the ecclesiastical judges, not the rabbi).Sure we gain tidbits of insight about the community that they are German in origin, anti-Zionist in political orientation and dress in a modern albeit conservative manner. But I failed to gain much insight to their inner spiritual life, to theior spiritual beliefs and similiar concepts.In fact Goodman could just as well been describing some modern Orthodox communities in Teaneck, NJ, Kew Garden Hills, NY and Paramus, NJ , with the omission of 2 or 3 minor details.Lesen Sie weiter... ›
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Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Because Allegra Goodman's The Family Markowitz was so funny, good-hearted and perceptive about the mishegoss in Jewish families, I had no doubt I would read Kaaterskill Falls. KF is not funny like TFM, but after the first few chapters, Elizabeth Shulman seduced me into wanting to know how she would pursue her dreams. She wants freedom in the closed, unfree and patriarchal world of orthodox Judaism.
She's unafraid to tell us what she thinks of some people in this community: "Elizabeth often thinks ill of people. She is critical; she resents them, and she can't help it . . . She accuses herself.. .of being .. slightly mean-spirited. She hates incompetence."
Well, what Jewish woman worth her kosher salt doesn't hate incompetence!
When Goodman allows Elizabeth to open up to us, we open up to her. We root for her when she wants to open a small kosher grocery store in KF and then succeeds at it. We cringe at the smallness and meaness of the new Rav when he takes away her special store.
Elizabeth reaches for what she wants, but not at the expense of her family -- they all remain supportive and loving to one another. Like Laurie Colwin's families, no matter how much anguish or loss of self-confidence one experiences, women and men in Goodman's novel bounce back to find joy in life.
There are other jewels of characterization in this book: Renee's adolescent search for her freedom and independence; her father, Andras' fighting against what he will lose when his older sister dies and his willingness to see anew his wife; His telling to Elizabeth," This is the United States of America and you can do what you want.
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