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Swimming across the Hudson

Swimming across the Hudson

by Joshua Henkin

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The trials of a small Jewish family whose adopted son reacquaints himself with his birth mother provide the background for Henkin's debut. An understated novel of ideas, it poses in accessible form serious questions about the nature of identitypersonal, sexual and, above all else, religious. Ben Suskind, 31, a countercultural high-school teacher, and his gay younger brother, Jonathan, who's a doctor, live in the Bay Area. They were both raised in Manhattan by adoptive parentsa stern Jewish professor at Columbia and his more relaxed wife. Dad has long been at pains to see that his boys don't dilute their heritage, an issue that becomes pressing when Susan Green, who's both Ben's plucky young birth mother and a gentile, meets up with Ben and gives his head a spin. Ben, already a little jittery, grows sufficiently absorbed in the history of his biological family to threaten his relationship with his live-in lawyer girlfriend and her daughter, as well as with his brother and his parents. A man stalled, unable to embrace the future until he has resolved the riddle of his past, Ben gradually comes to understand that he can be a legitimate Jew without recourse to the Old Testament. His parents' love has made him a member of the tribe; and religious observance, from kosher cuisine to Sabbath and synagogue, can remain points of refuge and serenity. Henkin has a refreshingly unpretentious style, but this mini-saga lacks punch. Ben's epiphany that "the past year had been nothing but a string of lies... my identity slippery and slithering,"following a strange, 11th-hour cascade of deceptions intended to uncover Jonathan's birth mother, provesonly as poignant as a particularly absorbing episode of TV's The Real World. (Apr.)
Library Journal
This first novel is so filled with family dynamics it almost bursts. Two adopted brothers, Ben and Jonathan Suskind, raised in New York City by loving and observant Jewish intellectual parents, are now just past 30 and living in San Francisco. Narrator Ben is unsettled about all sorts of issues: his Jewishness (he is living with a Gentile and her daughter), his career as a high school teacher, and his identity. So when he receives a letter from his birth mother, he decides to meet her and sort through his past. Jonathan, a gay physician, has no such troubles. As Ben unravels much of his adoptive family's secrets, his birth mother's past, and then the identity Jonathan's birth mother (whom he seeks out surreptitiously), he is not sure he has done the right thing. Henkin delivers a heavy dose of changing family traditions in the 1990s, which for some readers may be a struggle. Still, this is an illuminating work; recommended for general collections.Molly Abramowitz, Silver Spring, Md.

Product Details

Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.25(w) x 9.32(h) x 0.82(d)

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