By Nathan Englander
Alfred A. Knopf
Part 1 of this short novel reads more like a Philip Roth story about Larry, the eldest son of an Orthodox family, who has become completely secular, unobservant and unbelieving, but has been called to the home of his Orthodox sister and her family, to sit shiva for their recently deceased father.
Larry’s discomfort at the ritual rules he has to follow, and his open rebellion against them, are made obvious. He has several confrontations with his sister about his unwillingness to follow the rules, especially as his behaviour makes his discomfort obvious to the other Orthodox participants during the shiva. As Larry notes later, sometimes, “rejection is a way to let people know that the thing we reject truly matters. It is its own kind of faith, even if it’s the opposite of faith.” [Read more…]