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A Blessing on the Moon

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Overview

Discussion Points

1. Why do you suppose this book is titled A Blessing on the Moon? What is the significance of the moon?

2. Chaim's adventures all take place in the afterlife and he believes in the World to Come. What is the World to Come and how does his belief affect his journey?

3. What can a character who's dead accomplish in a novel ...

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A Blessing on the Moon

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Overview

Discussion Points

1. Why do you suppose this book is titled A Blessing on the Moon? What is the significance of the moon?

2. Chaim's adventures all take place in the afterlife and he believes in the World to Come. What is the World to Come and how does his belief affect his journey?

3. What can a character who's dead accomplish in a novel that a comparable character who's living cannot?

4. Chaim and Ola have an unusual relationship. Describe the nature of that relationship and what it means to each of them.

5. Chaim meets a man who identifies himself as the soldier who shot him. At one point Chaim says to him, I could suffocate you! Instead he helps him. Why does Chaim take care of him?

6. On page 196, Chaim wishes for something momentous, something extravagant, something along the lines of Ola's ascension but without the gaudy theatricals. Does he get his wish? Compare the appearance of Jesus and Mary to Chaim's vision at the end of the book.

7. Is the Ida Kaminski who is registered at the Hotel Amfortas Chaim's first wife, or another Ida Kaminski? Why do you think the author chooses not to answer this question in the narrative?

8. In spite of everything that has happened to him, Chaim seems to keep his faith in God. In the last part of Chaim's journey, however, he at first resists accompanying the two Hasids in their search for the moon. Is this because he has lost his faith or does he hold on to his belief to the end of the book?

9. How does part one of the book address the personal; part two, the collective; and part three, the cosmic or universal?

10. Many novelistic treatments of the Holocaust have been published over the years. How do the works of first generation survivors contrast with the Holocaust literature now being published by the new, younger generation of writers?

Recommended Reading from Joseph Skibell

So many important Jewish books are now available in English, paring down a list to recommend was not an easy task. But here are a few remarkable books of stories, philosophy, and history from the Jewish tradition:

In Praise of the Baal Shem Tov, translated and edited by Dan Ben-Amos and Jerome R. Mintz

Meeting with Remarkable Souls: Legends of the Baal Shem Tov, by Eliahu Klein

Nine Gates to the Chasidic Mysteries, by Jiri Langer

To Heal the Soul: The Spiritual Journal of a Chasidic Rebbe, by Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, translated and edited by Yehoshua Starrett.

Shivitti: A Vision, by Ka-Tzetnik 135633

The Place Where You Are Standing Is Holy: A Jewish Theology on Human Relationships, by Gershon Winkler with Lakme Batya Elior

Jewish Views of the Afterlife, by Simcha Paull Raphael

9½ Mystics: The Kabbala Today, by Herbert Weiner

The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism, collected and translated by Daniel C. Matt

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Editorial Reviews

NY Times Book Review
Rich with emotion, humor, and invention.
The New Yorker
As magical as it is macabre.
The Boston Globe
“Brilliant ... Astonishing.”
The Boston Globe
The Washington Post
“Startlingly original. . . . Recalls the dark, hallucinatory world of Jerzy Kosinski’s The Painted Bird while at the same time surpassing it.”
The Washington Post
The Denver Post
“As mesmerizing as a folk tale, as rich as gold itself.”
The Denver Post
Houston Chronicle
“A compelling tour de force, a surreal but thoroughly accessible page-turner.”
Houston Chronicle
The New Yorker
“As magical as it is macabre.”
The New Yorker
AudioFile
“The considerable talents of author Joseph Skibell and narrator Allen Lewis Rickman join to deliver a captivating Holocaust story that is as magical and joyous as it is tragic and heartrending. . . . an utterly engrossing story that, like Chaim’s odyssey, cannot be abandoned.”
AudioFile [Earphones Award]
From the Publisher
“Allen Lewis Rickman brilliantly narrates Skibell’s debut novel, a macabre tale first published in 1997 to rave reviews and newly available on audio. His tone of determined cheerfulness creates the mood of a Yiddish folktale.”
Library Journal (starred review and a Wyatt’s World “Best Bets” selection)
Library Journal
Chaim Skibelski climbs out of a mass grave containing 3000 residents of his Polish village who were slaughtered along with him. Shortly after realizing he's dead, he rouses the decayed ghosts of his neighbors and, in search of the "World to Come," the grisly parade wanders through the forest to a luxury hotel, where the horrors of the Holocaust are reenacted. Actor Allen Rickman brilliantly narrates Skibell's debut novel, a macabre tale first published in 1997 to rave reviews and newly available on audio. His tone of determined cheerfulness creates the mood of a Yiddish folktale. An unconventional but interesting addition to Holocaust literature collections that will appeal to listeners who enjoy magic realism. [This audio edition was a Wyatt's World "Best Bets" selection, LJ Xpress 11/8/10; the Berkley Trade pb was described as leaving "a lasting impression," LJ 9/1/97.—Ed.]—Janet Martin, Southern Pines P.L., NC
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616200183
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • Publication date: 9/7/2010
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 643,504
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Joseph Skibell is the author of two previous novels, A Blessing on the Moon and The English Disease. He has received a Halls Fiction Fellowship, a Michener Fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, among other awards. He teaches at Emory University and is the director of the Richard Ellmann Lectures in Modern Literature.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2012

    Very powerful. Unlike anything you've ever read. A major work.

    Very powerful. Unlike anything you've ever read. A major work.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2005

    Astouding. Mysterious. Beautiful

    An amazing book. A bizzare journey, one that seems to have spring from a brilliantly strange and yet simple conciet. Not just a ghost story, not really just a holocaust story but lyrical and memorable.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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