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Faith for Beginners
Synopses & Reviews
An acclaimed short-story writer has created a miraculous first novel about an American family on the verge of a breakdown–and an epiphany.
In the summer of 2000, Israel teeters between total war and total peace. Similarly on edge, Helen Michaelson, a respectable suburban housewife from Michigan, has brought her ailing husband and rebellious college-age son, Jeremy, to Jerusalem. She hopes the journey will inspire Jeremy to reconnect with his faith and find meaning in his life . . . or at least get rid of his nose ring.
It’s not that Helen is concerned about Jeremy’s sexual orientation (after all, her other son is gay as well). It’s merely the matter of the overdose (“Just like Liza!” Jeremy had told her), the green hair, and what looks like a safety pin stuck through his face. After therapy, unconditional love, and tough love . . . why not try Israel?
Yet in seductive and dangerous surroundings, with the rumbling of violence and change in the air, in a part of the world where “there are no modern times,” mother and son become new, old, and surprising versions of themselves.
Funny, erotic, searingly insightful, and profoundly moving, Faith for Beginners is a stunning debut novel from a vibrant new voice in fiction.
"A woman hopes a family trip to Israel will help her reclaim her confused, rebellious son in Hamburger's entertaining, irreverent first novel (after the collection The View from Stalin's Head). Jeremy's been at NYU for five years, but he's still just a junior, and Helen Michaelson, 58, thinks he might have a much-needed spiritual awakening on the 'Michigan Miracle 2000' tour. But while Jeremy's more interested in cruising Jerusalem's gay parks, Helen herself is primed for revelation, as she finds that her connection to Judaism and her family is more complicated than she'd thought. Hamburger has an exacting eye for mundane detail and suburban conventions, and in Jeremy he's created the classic green-haired, pierced college student ranting about social injustice. But beneath Jeremy's sarcastic, moralizing banter, there's a convincing critique of Americans' way of being in the world. In Israel in 2000, the Michaelsons are like Pixar creations trapped in a movie filmed in Super 8 — the Middle East may be fraught with political tension, but their biggest problem is the heat outside their air-conditioned bus. Hamburger goes further than witty satire, though, and when the plot takes a dark turn he demonstrates that he's capable of taking on global issues, even if his characters aren't. Agent, Melanie Jackson Agency." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
The author of "The View from Stalin's Head" now offers a humorous and moving novel about an American family whose vacation to Jerusalem goes terribly awry.
About the Author
Aaron Hamburger is the author of the short-story collection The View from Stalin’s Head, for which he was awarded the Rome Prize by The American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was awarded a fellowship from the Edward F. Albee Foundation and won first prize in the David Dornstein Memorial Creative Writing Contest for Young Adult Writers. His writing has appeared in The Village Voice, Out, Nerve, and Time Out New York. He teaches writing at Columbia University and lives in New York City.
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