The Hebrew Tutor of Bel Air

Allan Appel, Author . Coffee House $14.95 (259p) ISBN 978-1-56689-224-7

Appel (High Holiday Sutra ) offers up another of his humorous takes on religion and spirituality, this one set in 1963 Los Angeles. Norman Plummer, the 17-year-old scholarly son of a chronically out-of-pocket compulsive gambler, is hired to tutor spoiled, wealthy 16-year-old Bayla Adler for her belated bat mitzvah. Bayla is determined to refuse to be bat mitzvahed; she is also gorgeous and seductive. A rocky alliance that has little to do with Hebrew ensues, one that doesn't escape the attention of Bayla's parents. When Norman isn't scared away by his pupil's surly refusal to learn anything, he is rewarded with exorbitant cash tips, and Bayla's father promises her $20,000 if she goes through with the ceremony. But Bayla has other plans for both Norman and the money. Appel renders the relationships between Norman and each of his parents with heartbreaking intimacy, but the Adlers, including Bayla, are so superficial that their actions are unconvincing. In the end this bittersweet exploration of love from Norman's 17-year-old perspective—love for Bayla, for his parents, for knowledge and for God—leaves too much unresolved. (July)

Reviewed on: 05/11/2009
Release date: 07/01/2009
Genre: Fiction
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