The Gift of Asher Lev

Chaim Potok, Author
Chaim Potok, Author Knopf Publishing Group $19.95 (369p) ISBN 978-0-394-57212-3
Reviewed on: 03/31/1990
Release date: 04/01/1990
In his first novel in five years, Potok brings back the Hasidic artist hero of My Name Is Asher Lev . Now living in France, Asher is deeply disturbed by the reviews of his latest show, which criticize his paintings as facile self-imitation. When he learns of the death of his favorite uncle, he returns to Brooklyn with his family for a funeral reunion with fellow Ladover Hasids. In America, Asher is assailed by memories and surprises: his uncle had amassed important artworks, and Asher is made responsible for the collection. He also faces a crisis in his own work, and yet another dilemma when he realizes that his son Avrumel has a chance to inherit the mantle of the Ladover rabbi if the boy remains in Brooklyn under the the sect leader's special tutelage. Asher understands that because the religious community looks upon his art as the work of the devil, his professional survival depends on his remaining geographically outside of the world in which he was raised. Potok again provides an instructive look at the power of Hasidism, building dramatic tension in the pull between the sacred and the profane. The plot is bogged down by too many details of art techniques and wooden dialogue, however, and the story often lumbers earnestly on the way to its by-no-means-foregone conclusion. 75,000 first printing; BOMC alternate. (May)
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