cover image The Book of Jonah

The Book of Jonah

Joshua Max Feldman. Holt, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9776-4

Two lost souls seek meaning in this enticing debut novel about faith and the “inescapability of being (oneself).” Jonah Jacobstein, a ladder-climbing associate at a large Manhattan law firm, finds himself in the throes of a spiritual malaise that recalls the story of his Biblical namesake. Jonah is plagued by alarming visions that include the city sinking underwater and everyone around him suddenly appearing naked. He breaks things off with his erstwhile girl-on-the-side, Zoey, comes clean about his infidelity to his girlfriend, Sylvia, and is fired from his job for a half-hearted whistleblowing attempt. Jonah decamps to Amsterdam and meets Judith, a fellow ambivalent Jew with a tragic past. Convinced that their encounter contains the final piece in his spiritual puzzle, Jonah seeks from her both absolution and closure. When it comes down to it, Jonah’s journey, which includes two break-ups, a firing, relocation, and a new love interest, has all the makings for a mediocre romantic comedy. But even the most banal events can lead to existential and religious revelations, which Feldman shows here, for instance, when a character observes that “the most potent experiences in life end up making what [rabbis] tell you less believable, not more.” Agent: Susan Golomb, Susan Golomb Literary Agency. (Feb.)