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Kaaterskill Falls by Allegra Goodman

Kaaterskill Falls (1998)

by Allegra Goodman

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6211415,671 (3.54)30
  1. 00
    Intuition by Allegra Goodman (womansheart)
    womansheart: This is another brilliant book by Allegra Goodman. The setting is "Academia". Wonderfully written and thoughtful story about love, scholarship and ethics.

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Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Donated, unread.
  JFGABCIK | Feb 17, 2016 |
Highly recommended - a sympathetic portrayal of a way of life that is unfamiliar to many of us. ( )
  DowntownLibrarian | Jun 10, 2012 |
i feel like I am still chasing my first Allegra Goodman high of Intuition.

My thoughts on Kaaterskill Falls are a little mixed. I loved the setting - I thought Goodman gave a great sense of place in the Catskills and also back in the city. The writing was good - definitely a step up from most writers. The plot was where this novel fell short. Is it possible for there too be just not enough plot but way too many storylines? That is how I felt about this story.

There are 2 major stories to follow in this book - they both march along at maddeningly slow speed with very little dramatic tension. Then - there are about a dozen (at least!) small stories that are thrown in and alternated through. With so many characters to keep track of and story lines to keep straight reading this book became somewhat of a chore.

I will still read Goodman - i think she is one of the better contemporary writers out there (and she lives one town over from me!) - despite the awards it won - it fell short for me. ( )
  alanna1122 | Sep 1, 2011 |
Great book about what it means to be a member of a community, and how it's possible to still feel alone and separated from others. In this case, it's a community of orthodox Jews who live in Washington Heights, NYC, but spend most of the summer in Kaaterskill Falls in upstate New York. Goodman's characters have depth, and they feel real. Her writing is very, very good. Some readers have pointed out that not much "happens," which is true if you're looking for drama, but each character struggles: with questions of faith, family, honor, or just plain living. I loved this novel! ( )
  Bellettres | Aug 18, 2011 |
This was my review from June 27, 2002:

After reading both KAATERSKILL FALLS and PARADISE PARK, I feel that Ms. Goodman's talent lies in masterful characterization. From the lost yet loveable Sharon Speigelman of PARADISE PARK to Elizabeth Schulman and the surrounding Kaaterskill community, the characters are always interesting, always real!
KAATERSKILL FALLS is the story of a community of Orthodox Jews who migrate between Washington Heights (Brooklyn) and Kaaterskill Falls, an Upstate NY community, in the summer. This novel deals with this community's relationship with both non-Jews and non-religious Jews as well as with their own feelings toward their religion.

I have read some reviews saying that this book went nowhere. My perspective is somewhat different: Ms. Goodman writes here about a slice of life and life doesn't always have definite conclusions; it doesn't usually wrap itself up in a neat little ball. Plateaus may be reached but there are always new mountains to climb and ongoing decisions to be made.The novelist, in my opinion, is intentionally leaving us with questions, thus enhancing our imagination and perhaps even leaving the door open for a sequel (How about it, Ms. Goodman? I'd love to find out how Chani ever managed to explore her budding yet forbidden Zionist sentiments! How does she ever manage to get to Israel anyway?)

I look forward to reading Allegra Goodman's short stories next! ( )
  KindleKapers | Apr 21, 2011 |
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Friday afternoon, Edelman's Bakery in Washington Heights is like the stock exchange--paper numbers strewn across the floor, everybody shouting orders: "Give me two! Seedless! No, make that four."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385323905, Paperback)

Allegra Goodman's remarkable first novel intertwines the stories of three Orthodox Jewish families, each of whom is tugged between religious tradition and the secular world. The story takes place in the upstate New York town of Kaaterskill, summer Mecca for the tightly knit Kirshner sect. Model wife and mother Elizabeth Shulman pictures her community as a sort of Mont-Saint-Michel, an island both joined and separated from the outside world as if by rising and falling tides. Fascinated with what lies on the spiritual mainland, she hides behind the reassuring rhythms of religious observance, though she's inspired with a "desire, as intense as prayer," to create something all her own.

Despite her pious husband's doubts, she does, in the form of a store catering to Kaaterskill's "summer people"--a community Goodman brings memorably to life. The Shulmans' neighbor Andras Melish, a Hungarian who fled World War II and a vanished world of assimilated European Jewry, struggles to understand his young Argentinian wife Nina, whose need for tradition grows with each passing year. The ailing Rav Kirshner must decide which son will carry on in his shoes: dutiful but plodding Isaiah or his brilliant but secular brother Jeremy. Andras and Nina's daughter befriends an Arab girl, while Elizabeth and Isaac's daughter dreams in secret of Israel. Meanwhile, the town's year-round residents observe the Orthodox newcomers with bewilderment and occasional dismay.

As she proved in a warm and funny 1996 collection of stories, The Family Markowitz, Goodman is an unparalleled observer of human nature. Here, she charts with quiet assurance the daily rhythms of Kaaterskill: the meals prepared and eaten, the Holy Days observed, the ebb and flow of married life. Goodman gets all the important details right; her children's dialogue, for instance, is unerring. Above all, however, she brings to the subject of religious life a seriousness and subtlety rarely found in recent fiction. Wise was the word used again and again to describe The Family Markowitz. Applied to Kaaterskill Falls, it is no less apt.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:46 -0400)

Explores the lives of three Orthodox Jewish families spending the summer of 1976 in Kaaterskill, a small town in upstate New York, including two refugees from the Holocaust and a rabbi nearing the end of his life

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