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This is a Saga from the 1930's to the present - encompassing the worlds of medicine; music; the martial arts; the military; physics; religion; the Vietnam War; the Holocaust; the establishment of the State of Israel; the continuing vicissitudes of the Middle East; international intelligence and espionage; - as seen through the eyes and experiences of three prime protagonists.
The story follows these three, who individually experience a simultaneous life-changing epiphany during high-school years, ultimately propelling each into a search for existential meaning - toward which they might not otherwise have been guided. These individuals are all driven by a need to find - indeed to confront - that which gives meaning to their lives; awarding prizes for their battles; accomplishments for their pride; - and a search for how the words - "meaning", "prizes", and "accomplishments" - are themselves defined.
Their youthful triumvirate eventually breaks, each developing in it's own sphere - and reunites in later years.
These protagonists are joined in their life's pursuits by a number of women who also assume significant importance in the saga - as all their lives intertwine.
Although this is a novel, it is historically factual - including the many battle scenes, the medical/surgical experiences, the musical events, etc. Some character's names have been changed, but many - being historical figures - have not.
Posted June 26, 2012
At first, the very heft of this book was daunting. However, as I began to read it, it became more and more fascinating. It is the story of a Rabbi’s son who was the epitome of what a real “mensch” should be. The author’s sensitive and almost personal prose elicits from the reader an empathetic and immediate response to “Jacob’s War”, from combating anti-Semitism as a high school student, while also protecting and befriending other people from discrimination – to the concert halls of New York, to Medical School, to the war in Viet Nam, to the founding of the State of Israel and the continued protection of that state through clandestine actions.
In addition to his continuing battle for in-hospital “Patient’s Rights”, and training his students to utilize the most important tool at their command, i.e. critical thinking – Jacob stays true to his childhood training.
When relating Jacob’s meetings with various persona in Israel, the author also gives a short history of what Jewish life was like in Europe, especially Spain and Poland, before and during World War II. The author’s insights into the inner machinations of a hero such as Jacob Kane, brought tears to my eyes, as did the ending with a hope for peaceful resolutions to the problems faced by Jacob and his associates. I enjoyed the book so much, that I stopped reading it with only about 50 pages to go, since I didn’t want to see it end. After I resumed my reading, and having finished it, I wanted to start it all over again. Something that I have never wanted to do with any other book I have read.
I strongly recommend this book.
Posted June 20, 2012
Reviewed by Alice D. for Readers Favorite
Jacob Benjamin Kane was born in the early 1930's to parents who were observant Jews. His mother was a pianist from Poland and his father a Rabbi and a mathematician who was involved with the scientists at Los Alamos, New Mexico, and the Oak Ridge Laboratories in Tennessee. Jacob or Jake becomes friends with Toshiro Tokani whose father tutors him as a young teenager in the martial arts. He also becomes lifelong friends with Charles Henson who once bullies Jake but goes on to acknowledge his Jewish heritage and moves to Israel to help build the Israeli state. Jake Kane is highly talented and becomes not only a neurosurgeon, an athlete in high school, a concert pianist and martial arts expert, but also a decorated member of the Special Forces, part of its 5th Special Forces Group in Vietnam where his training as a surgeon is needed. But Jake is more than this. He is a Golem who feels a need to destroy enemies and serves as a secret agent in the Israeli Mossad for years. But as the years pass, will Jake Kane change, mellow?
"Jacob's War" is a brilliant but very long novel that is both well-written and well-edited. Main character Jacob Kane and all major and minor characters such as his lifelong friends Charles and Toshiro, his military friends Jeremiah Greene and Jackie the nurse, and Jake's loves Hannah and Juliette, are well-created and totally believable. The story flashes back from 199 to the 1950's and different times in Jake's life which works well to support this story of an incredible, multi-talented man whose medical genius and his ability to turn into a killer par non for the downtrodden will inspire all readers. J.B. Kaufman's "Jacobi's War" is a long but terrific read, detailing parts of history that most may not know.