Over the years, I've come to realize that very few books are perfect. Very, very few. Most books (popular and unpopular, well-considered and criticized) lose momentum at points in the narrative. The sentences lose their energy. The plot begins to drag. The writer's logic breaks down, or her ending is too easily predicted to be satisfying. And on and on and on. I'm sure readers of my books find the same faults. So more often than not, as a reader, I'm looking for moments--for reasons the book will stick with me, teach me, cause me to reflect again and again.
Over the last week, I read Chaim Potok's The Chosen. It is not a perfect book. There are long parts in which little happens--parts that could be edited to a handful of sentences that serve the same plot effect but more powerfully. At times, the characters in Potok's novel sound more like talking heads--merely expressions of points of view--than real human beings. And yet . . .
And yet the book is wonderful. Wonderful in the way it captures a historical period in the New York Jewish community (the final years of WWII) and the different ways a devout person might make sense of what it is to be a father, a son, a citizen, a scholar, a believer, a member of a terrorized people.
Not only that, but the final 15 pages or so make up the absolutely most satisfying conclusion I've ever read. Humane. Gripping. Eye opening.
This will be one of those books I enjoyed while reading it but that will stick with me and get better (I predict) over the years as my thoughts return to it.