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This 1999 Los Angeles Times Book Award Finalist tells the extraordinary story of Joshua Hammer search to reconnect with his brother, Tony and his new existence as an ultra-orthodox Jew renamed Tuvia. Growing up in a non-religious household in Manhattan, Josh never conceived that Tony would end up in an arranged marriage and devoting his life to the Torah in a closed, cloistered ...
This 1999 Los Angeles Times Book Award Finalist tells the extraordinary story of Joshua Hammer search to reconnect with his brother, Tony and his new existence as an ultra-orthodox Jew renamed Tuvia. Growing up in a non-religious household in Manhattan, Josh never conceived that Tony would end up in an arranged marriage and devoting his life to the Torah in a closed, cloistered world in which outsiders were not welcome. As Josh follows his brother metamorphic path from a life-changing stay in Jerusalem through Tuvia newfound religious fervor, he grows to better understand his brother, as well as the most frightening and exotic territory for a foreign correspondent: his own family" -(Dani Shapiro).
"A wonderful debut by a superb journalist." -James McBride
"A clear-eyed reckoning with the spirits of alienation and belonging that haunt our relations to our blood kin and to God." -Philip Gourevitch
Posted February 22, 2004
The Writer had a difficult youth life, thus views many aspects negatively. He puts drama and emphasis on the disapproving side. The lack of detail accuracy and loath towards religion glares out of every page. 1) Interesting how the writer himself admits his equanimity over his brother -his struggles or even skilled advantages and success- when they were young, yet can¿t accept him with his religious ¿fanaticism¿ Claiming at same time that he is concerned for his welfare. Although his brother seems to have found a caring tight-knit community where one could rely for assistance at a moments notice, Hammer spews venom toward their leaders. 2) His brother¿s life struggles are elaborated in full color and detail and point a finger toward his poverty and lack of profession, whereas his father¿s life struggles are placidly mentioned (although he¿s what others would call a self-made success). 3) Coincidentally I read the book Bias just before reading this book and its clear that the journalist within the writer purposely omits or smoothes over many a happy family life¿s moments, or the security that his nephews and nieces enjoy more than he did.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 5, 2000
I have absolutely no acquaintance with the author of this book, but found it fascinating and unputdownable. Since I do know intimately the ultra-Orthodox world he describes, I can attest that Hammer has got the ambience and the atmosphere just right. Unfortunately, his memory fails him on a lot of the details of halachic observance. An expert should have carefully reviewed this book before publication. But these flaws do not detract from the compelling story. The psychological implications are telling; the more sensitive brother is drawn to ultra-Orthodoxy, seeking the warmth of family and the acceptance he never knew growing up. He finds a substitute father in a charismatic Hasidic rabbi. The book also reveals the economic underpinnings of a society where men are not expected to earn a living, yet father large families. The families live in poverty, supported by the pittance wives can earn and by a small stipend from the yeshiva. Friends do favors, give to those less well off than themselves. But the major economic support of these families is the well-off secular parents who pay for housing, tuition, and everything else their children and grandchildren need. It is a cynical system indeed, and the compassion of parents is fully exploited. The wives shoulder a disproportionate burden, and they, too, are fully exploited. Hammer does not go beyond reportage, but the facts speak for themselves. One would have liked deeper analysis and thoughtfulness. But the book is well worth reading.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 13, 1999
I couldn't put this book down. I liked it a lot because it explained clearly and in detail how a modern young boy grew up and became a holy man, and how his brother, with acts of love and kindness, helped him. I learned a lot about a life style seemingly mysterious and alien and discovered how people are not as different as they sometimes think. I admired the honesty and courage in reporting and found the ending hopeful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.