Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Late to the Party Review: My Name is Asher Lev

My Name is Asher Lev is a book that wastes no time getting started. Our protagonist, the Asher Lev of the title, confesses that he is the artist that everyone has been talking about. He is determined that people should know the truth. Asher is ready to stop the rumors and the gossip by telling the story of his life, his struggles with his parents, and the art that dwells in his soul and compels him to paint things that no good Jew should even think of.

Chaim Potok is wonderfully adept at writing a book that is full of everyday moments, but conveys volumes. The things that happen here are not extraordinary in themselves: a woman grieves the death of her brother, a boy wishes his father was home more, a young man becomes the apprentice of an (in)famous artist. But the writing captures every bit of emotion that goes with those moments. 

This story (like all of Chaim Potok's stories) is intensely concerned with what it means to be Jewish. Asher's parents are deeply committed to the well-being of Jews around the world, and their son misses them as they work to bring Jews out of Stalin's oppressive Russia. Their faith, and the well-being of their fellow Jewish people, is of paramount importance to them. When Asher begins exploring his gift for painting, his parents disapprove of something that is a waste of time at best, and perhaps even sacrilegious. In another author's hands, this book would show how different the reader's life is from the lives of these characters. Instead, it highlights how much people are alike.

My Name is Asher Lev is a beautifully written story about faith, family, and art. It is a universal book for every and any reader, even the one who has never been to synagogue or held a paintbrush in their hand.

My Name is Asher Lev
By Chaim Potok
A Fawcett Crest Book 1972
350 pages
From my shelves

Late to the Party Reviews are my thoughts on the books everyone else read years ago. I'm finally getting to them, so make sure to chime in and tell me about your experience with these stories!


  1. Goodness, that is an oldie but goodie! I remember that book floating around high school when I attended (and that is very long ago). I never read it but knew people who read it for a certain Lit class I didn't take. I'm glad that you can pick up a title off many readers' radar and find enjoyment in it.

    1. It's kind of fun to remind people of books they read a long time ago (or meant to read for a long time)!

  2. I'm even later to the party because although I've read The Chosen by Potok, I've never read this book. :)

    1. Haha, you just arrived a few minutes after me. I've read The Chosen too, but that's it by Potok (so far)!

    2. Davita's Harp was pretty good, but that's the only other Potok I've read. I don't know why. Maybe because I assume they'll always be there waiting. Or maybe I'm lazy. :)

      Did you get the zucchini pancake recipe I sent? I hope it went through okay. :)

  3. I've heard the name Chaim Potok, but really knew nothing about the types of books he writes. Thanks for the enlightening review :)