Conspiracy of Paper, where the Jewishness of the protagonist,
while important to the book, wasn’t central to his character,
everyone who comes to Kaaterskill Falls for the summer
is Jewish, and that’s the most important thing in their lives. Not just
during the summer, either, but 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (but most
especially on Shabbat).
Most of the summer people are Orthodox Jews; in particular, the families
who are at the core of the novel are Kirshners, followers of Rav
Kirshner, who is seventy-eight and frail as the novel opens. We follow
several of the families through two summers and into a third; during
that time, we see birth and death affect this community. There are
conflicts, of course, but no high drama (at least not to anyone but the
I enjoyed the book — I’m not Orthodox (far from it), but I was able to
identify with some of the questioning and decisions that the characters
had to make in reconciling their life with late 20th-century America.
The author doesn’t explain any of the Hebrew or Yiddish terms she uses,
so I would expect someone who’s unfamiliar with Jewish practice to have
a hard time following what’s going on in some places.
Now to start Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. See you when I
finish! [One chapter down, many to go…if she keeps up the same level of action in the rest of the book as in the first chapter, I’m going to be exhausted before I’m done.]