Library Journal - Library JournalMiddle-aged lawyer Farbman, who hustles personal injury cases and defends shady characters in New York City, is estranged from his shiksa wife, Ann Marie, and spends little time with his two children. When Ann Marie becomes critically ill, Farbman reevaluates his life and what is truly important. He studies the medical literature to secure the best treatment for her and takes an active role in the lives of his children. As Farbman becomes increasingly ethical in his behavior, his circumstances worsen until he loses virtually everything. He leaves the madness of urban existence to pursue a deeper spirituality, finally finding passion and meaning in his life. A heartening story of an individual making a dramatic and successful transformation. [This first novel won the publisher's First Series Award for the Novel.--Ed.]--Kimberly G. Allen, MCI Corporate Information Resources Ctr., Washington, DC Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Hughes"Just as the hand, held before the eye, can hide the tallest mountain, so the routine of everyday life can keep us from seeing the vast radiance of and the secret wonders that fill the world." Eighteenth century, Hasidic.
Manhattan attorney David Farbman dreams of being a farmer. Disillusioned with the practice of law, he's tired of struggling through the firm's financial problems; and he's tired of his floundering, sexless marriage. A small spark, however, is lit in Farbman when he attends a funeral and meets Leah Stein, who invites Farbman to a religious retreat. The Hasidic rabbi leading the group predicts that Farbman will experience a flash of insight during the weekend, but cautions that "for true repentance there must be change" - a baal teshuva. Farbman indeed has a "transcendental experience," and also spends an afternoon of lusty, passionate sex with Leah. Although Leah isn't interested in pursuing a long-term romance with Farbman, he remains attracted to her and relies upon her as a source of "grounding," inspired by her devotion to Judaism.
At this point, Farbman's wife Ann Marie discovers she has a malignant tumor. Farbman takes time from his practice to provide additional support for her and their two children. Just as Farbman begins to think he has salvaged his marriage, Ann Marie receives compromising photos of her husband with a female attorney. She sues for divorce. Farbman's downward spiral begins anew, exacerbated by major financial setbacks at the office. All of this drives him to the brink of suicide. At the last moment, his self-destruction is prevented by a phone call from Leah. He is drawn back into the world of religious philosophy, and works to reclaim himself. When he accepts a farm as payment for a legal debt, he finally begins to realize his long held dream of being a simple farmer. Leah, apparently has a baal teshuva of her own and decides to share his life down on the farm.
Friedman's characters are nicely rounded and even likeable despite their flaws. The crisp dialogue builds momentum well as Farbman grapples with "the meaning of life" themes of the story. Friedman treats the religious material with respect as he explores the thought-provoking aspects concerning the role of doctrine in everyday life.
Foreword (December, 1999)
Kirkus ReviewsAn earnest debut, winner of the Mid-List Press First Series Award for the Novel, about the spiritual malaise and gradual awakening of a New York attorney,.
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Hand before the Eye based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
We walk with the main character in this poignant journey through his life as it unfolds. Every character becomes special to us, itimate. This is a lasting story with meaning and a message. It touches the reader and helps us understand the beauty that is arounds even if the pain is profound. It's a rich read.
The Hand Before the Eye is an oddball: a book by and about a lawyer that is not about a point of law, and not a thriller, but a story about what one knows when one comes to know oneself. The protagonist, a middle-aged litigator named Farbman, has become alienated from all he thought he held most precious. He grinds away at a marginally successful law practice, longs for an end to his celibate marriage and dabbles at adultery. He makes the astonishing discovery that behaving lovingly makes one loving. In the end, he gets major come uppances -- 'righteous' treatment of the goes-around-comes-around variety. But he also learns to cherish each moment those acts and people who most bless him. Especially interesting is the way author Donald Friedman handles Farbman's sexual exploits: he suffers from them more than he is satisfied by them -- and he eventually learns that there are more compelling passions than the quick sex he has yearned for -- among these are friendship, connection with community, and satisfaction in work (real work and good work) well-done. In the end, the author seems to side with the 'feminine' aspect of Farbman's experience. Refreshingly non-jazzy, not sardonic or smart-alecky, but comic and tragic and very hopeful.
It is rare to encounter a book so powerful that it forces us to reevaluate the direction of our lives. For me, Donald Friedman's extraordinary first novel, The Hand Before The Eye, was a mind-bending, life-transforming experience. Forget the fact that this is one of the funniest and saddest books you'll ever read... Or the fact that the lawyer Farbman perfectly captures the desperation and emptiness of the workaholic life that is seemingly unavoidable at the turn of the millennium... Or that this compelling tale ends by shattering the plate glass wall separating us from a truly fulfilling life of freedom, love, and deep connection with nature. If you're like me, this book will at its very least launch you on a journey of spiritual exploration and career transformation. Perhaps along the way you will discover or rediscover all that is truly important in living. Bravo
Many novels are entertaining, exciting, engaging; a few are literature. The difference is illusive and relative, but has to do with brilliance in the way words, story, characters, images, thoughts and settings illuminate each other. It has to do, most of all, with the way those elements meld to produce a depth of experience that approaches wisdom -- offering the reader more profound insights into the way of the world. Donald Friedman's The Hand Before the Eye is, remarkably for a first novel, literature. It is also very funny. Farbman, the lawyer, dealing more with the quirks of clients and the hounding of creditors than with anything he learned in law school, is all of us who find ourselves compromised, somehow unfulfilled, yearning for a greater sense of purpose. The ingredients for happiness are there -- a potentially lucrative career, an attractive family and friends -- yet, with Farbman's undermining them and their own very faulty construction, they do not satisfy. His quest starts with escape and sex, following a funeral. But Farbman's escape into the embrace of an elusively honest and beautiful woman leads him into new levels of questions, as does his encounter at a religious retreat (which he attends for less than the purest motivations) with the unexpectedly unnerving presence of a mystical rabbi. Temporary escape, however, is not the answer for Farbman, now that he has glimpsed something more profound. One of the most striking insights of Judaism is that meaning occurs in the reality and details of life, not in theories. What do you say when you get up in the morning? What do you eat? How do you put on your clothes? How and to what are you connected? And so it is with Farbman, for any wisdom he gains cannot have meaning except as it affects and changes his the way he leads his life. It is that process that Friedman describes, with brilliance, humor and literary competence, so that, like other novels that are literature, it offers important insights that affect how we see our lives.
Engaging and funny the book as a whole launches us into all too familiar and too intimate tales of small deceits and unattained fantasies. You don't need to be a lawyer to love this book, Farbman is lost in the midst of a whirl of conflicts and catastrophies of his own creation, wondering always how to escape or reshape it all into a life of meaning and balance. Just terrific!!!