The Chosen Book Review

A blink of an eye in itself is nothing. But the eye that blinks, that is something. A span of a life is nothing. But the man who lives that span, he is something. He can fill that tiny span with meaning, so its quality is immeasurable though its quantity may be insignificant.

The Chosen, Potok

Some stories you enter into fully expecting to enjoy it. Others surprise you by how much you end up liking them. Then, there are some that spring from nowhere and take hold of your heart. For me, The Chosen is part of that special third category.

I had read Chaim Potok’s sequel to it, The Promise, earlier this year and found it depressing, grim, and bizarre. That’s why, even though my lovely mother assured me The Chosen was better, I remained skeptical when I picked it up.

But, I loved it.

Before I explain why, a summary is probably in order. Rueven and Danny are two Jewish boys living in America at the end of World War II. Danny is a Hasidic Jew, a group that’s mistrustful of and firmly separate from outsiders at the time. Because Reuven is not a Hasidic Jew, the unlikely friendship he strikes up with Danny is even more surprising. They face the challenges brought from their different beliefs and the stories of the Holocaust seeping into America.

The plot is simple, but that’s where its elegance and eloquence shines. Growing up, friendship, father and son relationships, education, and what happens when differing beliefs collide are all dealt with in this novel. The underlying theme through all that, and the reason the book’s message remains relevant despite being over fifty years old, is the importance of understanding.

Forming opinions without truly understanding where a person has been, what they’ve gone through, and why they behave the way they do results in much of the animosity around us. Learning where someone’s coming from provides a more compassionate perspective, decreasing the likelihood of responding with judgment or insults. Potok shows that ultimately, understanding doesn’t mean we must like and agree with everything another person does, but it will allow us to view the whole picture. This is what The Chosen deals with again and again.

Aside from this, Danny and Reuven’s friendship was wonderful to follow. The reader could feel the weight and depth of their friendship keenly, probably due to the fact that both characters were very well developed. They reacted to things realistically but not immaturely and had a desire to improve, which I appreciated.

These are just my general thoughts and feelings on the book. In conclusion, I’m so glad I read it, as it’s one of my favorite books I’ve read this year. The fact Chaim Potok was a Jew living in America during World War II gives this book a genuine, authentic tone. Do yourself a favor and read this short but moving novel. 5 out of 5 stars.

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