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The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Greenby Joshua Braff
Synopses & Reviews
It's 1977. Jacob Green, a Jewish kid from suburban New Jersey, sits on the stairs during his family's housewarming party, waiting for his father, Abram — charming host, everyone's best friend, and amateur emcee — to introduce him to the crowd. Housewarming parties, Annie Hall parties, and bar mitzvah parties punctuate Jacob's childhood and require command performances by all the Green family members. But when the confetti settles and the drapes are drawn, the affable Abram Green becomes an egotistical tyrant whose emotional rages rupture the lives of his family.
Jacob doesn't mean to disappoint his father, but he can't help thinking the most unthinkable (and very funny) thoughts about public-school humiliation, Hebrew-school disinclination, and in-home sex education (with the live-in nanny!). If only his mother hadn't started college at thirty-six (and fallen for her psychology professor). If only he were more like his rebellious older brother (suspended from Hebrew school for drawing the rabbi in a threesome with a lobster and a pig). If only Jacob could confront his overbearing father and tell him he doesn't want to sing in synagogue, attend est classes, write the perfect thank-you note, or even live in the same house with Abram Green. But, of course, he can't. That would be unthinkable.
This self-assured, comic, yet piercing first novel deftly captures the struggle of an imperfect boy trying to become a suitable son.
"A witty, sensitive boy observes the darkly humorous goings-on in his Orthodox Jewish family in 1970s New Jersey. Jacob Green idolizes his older brother, Asher, and misses his withdrawn mother, Claire, but his father, the charismatic, tyrannical Abram, dominates the family. At 10, Jacob's unthinkable sin of forgetting to wear his tzitzit to yeshiva sets off an amusing chain of events — Asher's scheming to trick the rabbi, the destruction of the rabbi's tzitzit and Jacob's suspension — that quickly turns sober when Jacob faces his father's rage. At 13, Jacob lives in a state of anxiety — his learning disability and his father's resulting disappointment erode his confidence; Asher withdraws into adolescence; his mother flees the house to pursue a Ph.D. and another man. Jacob would love to rebel (he's got 'a father so far up my ass you can see him performing in my pupils'), but mostly he mentally rewrites his bar mitzvah thank-yous as rants and fantasizes about his live-in babysitter, Megan. When Claire and Abram divorce and Megan moves out, Jacob conveys his angst through a series of letters addressed to Megan. By the time he's 15, Jacob is painfully lonely, as he shuttles between his father's oppressiveness and his mother's honeymooning obliviousness. Although Jacob is a likable, funny narrator, his keen observation and vibrant imagination falter under the weight of Abram's presence and Claire's absence. Agent, Sonia Pabley. (Sept. 10)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Scarifyingly funny debut limns a suburban boy's struggle to cope with the Jewish Father from Hell....Painfully honest and surprisingly compassionate. Compulsively readable, in a horrifying sort of way." Kirkus Reviews
A hilarious and heartbreaking novel about the unreasonable expectations a narcissistic father places on his less-than-perfect son.
About the Author
Joshua Braff has an M.F.A. in creative writing. He grew up in New Jersey and now lives with his wife and children in Berkeley, California.
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