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
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!