Title: The Chosen
Author: Chaim Potok
Major Themes: Jews, Hasidic Jews, New York City, Friendship, Love
Synopsis: After Danny injured Reuven’s eye in a softball game, the two became close friends even though Reuven could never understand Danny’s relationship with his father.
When I first picked up The Chosen by Chaim Potok, I had no idea what to expect. Several years ago, a friend gave this book to us, and because this friend could talk of nothing but cricket at the time, I thought maybe it had something to do with sports. Well, I was partially right. It did begin with the story of a softball game. However, that was only a springboard for the rest of the book.
This book is set in Brooklyn and begins in 1944. World War II is raging in Europe, and that affects everyone’s ways of thinking and ways of life. The narrator of the book, Reuven, is on a softball team. He is a Jewish boy, and the team that his team is going to play against today are also Jewish—but they are Hasidic Jews of the strictest sort. The game turns into war, and Danny, on the opposite team, hits Reuven’s eye with a ball and Reuven ends up in hospital.
Danny goes to visit Reuven in hospital, and from being enemies, after a few days, the boys find themselves fast friends. Over the next several years, Reuben gets to know Danny and his father, who is the rabbi of the Hasidic synagogue. He learns from his own father about the origins of the Hasidic Jews, and does his best to be a friend to Danny. However, he is angry at Danny’s father, and cannot understand why the man refuses to speak to his son.
The Chosen is a very complicated story. I’m not sure I understand it yet. It is a story about friendship, and relationships between father and son. Two different father/son relationships are explored here, both Reuven and his father and Danny and his father. Both boys learned a lot about life and love throughout the years described in this book. It is an amazing, powerful story. There is also a good way to learn about Judaism, especially the Hasidic Jews. I knew virtually nothing about them before reading The Chosen and found the history part of it just as interesting as the story. I don’t know if I’ll ever read this book again, but it was definitely worth reading once.
WARNING: Chapter 1, page 17: My God, God, Jesus Christ, bastard. Page 24: Someone tells others to burn in hell. Chapter 2, page 37: someone says “God.” Chapter 3, page 62: “you can go to hell.” Chapter 4, page 78: you sonofagun. Chapter 12, page 200: “must be hell.” Page 202: “the most hellish.” Chapter 13, page 211: Damn it. Chapter 14, page 237: “to hell with you.”