Congregational Learning: TBA Book GroupWith Rabbi Clifford Kulwin
TBA Book Group Selections & Schedule
Murder mysteries and spy thrillers are popular in both America and Israel. These two selections are page turners, fascinating portals into a side of Israeli society we rarely consider and fictional case studies teaching us about real life.
Forbidden Love in St. Petersburg by Mishka Ben-David
Thursday, November 2, 7:30 PM
Think Gabriel Alon…if Daniel Silva wrote in Hebrew. Ben-David holds an M.A. in literature from the University of Wisconsin, a Ph.D. from the Hebrew University, and for twelve years was a Mossad agent. His fictional double, Yogev Ben-Ari, moves to Moscow to set up a sleeper cell, but instead ends up sleeping with a beautiful and (of course) mysterious bookstore owner. Ben-Ari tries to figure out who the good guys are and, along the way, demonstrates what happens to Israeli families when someone’s a spy.
The last couple of years have been bountiful for readers of Jewish fiction. These four books, by both established and debut authors, have attracted critical and popular acclaim. And deservedly so.
Moonglow by Michael Chabon
Thursday, December 7, 7:30 PM
A New York Times bestseller on perhaps every “Best of” list of the year, Moonglow, in the words of one reviewer, “revisits an entire era through a single life and collapses a lifetime into a single week.” The (autobiographical?) narrator visits his dying grandfather and hears stories he’s never heard, from the Jewish slums of prewar South Philadelphia to the invasion of Germany, from a Florida retirement village to New York’s Wallkill prison. Chabon’s earlier books, especially Kavalier and Klay and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union took him to the first rank of American authors. In Moonglow he hasn’t lost his touch.
The Afterlife of Stars by Joseph Kertes
Thursday, January 4, 7:30 PM
Two young Jewish brothers watch as Russian tanks roll into their hometown of Budapest in 1956. They flee with their family to Paris, to the home of great aunt Hermina, once a famed opera diva. Kertes, a Hungarian native who teaches literature at Toronto’s Humber College, relates the gripping tale with authority and humor. A New York Times Editor’s Choice Book.
What to Do About the Solomons by Bethany Ball
Thursday, February 1, 7:30 PM
Former Israeli Navy commando Marc Solomon, now living in Los Angeles, is falsely accused of money laundering through his asset management firm. News of the shanda makes it to Israel, where Marc’s large, diverse and raucous family reacts…loudly! Tablet Magazine named What to Do one of the “Seven Jewish Literary Fiction Books to Read This Year.”
All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
Thursday, March 1, 7:30 PM
Four years ago, critics and TBA Book Group members praised The Middlesteins. As they will All Grown Up. Andrea Bern is thirty-nine, single and childless, a talented artist who detests the soul crushing advertising agency that, nonetheless, pays her pretty well. She hates her life and we don’t blame her, but she still captivates us, evoking our admiration and appreciation as we accompany her ongoing reconsideration of what her life – and ours? – should be about.
Along with David Grossman and A.B. Yehoshua, all three born in Jerusalem, Amos Oz is one of the greatest Israeli novelists of the last half century. Saul Bellow, along with Philip Roth and Bernard Malamud, is one of the great American Jewish novelists of the twentieth century. Early or late, how could a work by either be anything but significant?
Judas by Amos Oz
Thursday, May 3, 7:30 PM
This latest by Oz was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize (which was won by his friend Grossman). The year is 1959 and Shmuel Ash, a perennial graduate student and wannabe Biblical scholar, needs money. He moves in with Gershom Wald, an elderly and eccentric man seeking company, and Atalia, the widow of Wald’s son, killed in action. Ash’s struggle to understand who he is, we come to realize, is also the struggle of the young state of Israel seeking to define itself.
Mr. Sammler’s Planet by Saul Bellow
Thursday, June 7, 7:30 PM
Sammler, one of Bellow’s later books and winner of the 1971 National Book Award for Fiction, tells the story of “Mr. Artur Sammler, Holocaust survivor, intellectual, and occasional lecturer at Columbia University in 1960s New York City.” Sammler doesn’t know if his intellectual distance, even disdain, from the people around him is innate, or a response to his experiences in Europe. His mind is on deeper things. And he doesn’t care, at least at the beginning. Bellow takes us along on Sammler’s fascinating interior journey.