The Orchard

David Hopen. Ecco, $27.99 (480p) ISBN 978-0-06-297474-7
Hopen commingles religious philosophy and dangerous behavior in his ambitious debut. Aryeh, 17, has always felt somewhat alienated from his deeply devout orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn’s Borough Park, so when his father’s job loss prompts a family move to southern Florida, Aryeh welcomes the opportunity to start over for senior year. He lands a coveted spot at elite Kol Neshama Academy, a modern Orthodox school whose students will undoubtedly drive their luxury cars all the way to the Ivy League. Despite his unfashionable attire and lack of social and academic sophistication, Aryeh is taken under the wing of the school’s golden boy, Noah. Noah’s risk-taking circle of friends in turn introduce Aryeh (soon redubbed Andrew) to the pleasures of secular life. Aryeh is especially fascinated by charismatic, emotionally complicated Evan, who has an emotional hold over Aryeh’s love interest, Sophia, and the group test their faith with daring escapades such as midnight speedboat rides (“if you’re the worthy one, you survive,” Evan says, fast approaching a jetty). Later, experiments with LSD bring on visions of God. Aryeh’s insecurities and longings are on full display in his insightful—if at times overwrought—narration. Though the students’ lengthy philosophical and scriptural debates initially seem ponderous, their thematic connections become increasingly apparent as the novel nears its moving climax. This isn’t your average campus novel, and despite its lumps, is all the better for it. Agent: Emily Forland. Brandt & Hochman Literary. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 09/04/2020
Release date: 11/01/2020
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 480 pages - 978-0-06-297476-1
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