Of all the reading that I had to do in high school, The Chosen by Chaim Potok stands out as one of the few that I actually liked. As a student at a very white bread high school this story with two Orthodox Jewish main characters was a real eye-opener. Here is a blurb shamlessly stolen from Wikipedia since I am still without internet:
The Chosen is set in the 1940s, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York City, New York. The story takes place over a period of seven years, beginning in 1944 when the protagonists are fifteen years old. It is set against the backdrop of the historical events of the time: the end of World War II, the death of President Roosevelt, the revelation of the Holocaust in Europe, and the struggle for the creation of the state of Israel.
The Chosen is a story of the friendship between two orthodox Jewish boys growing up in 1940s Brooklyn. Reuven Malter, the narrator of the story, is the son of a writer and scholar who follows modern methods of studying Judaism. Danny is the genius son of a Hasidic rabbi, whose people live completely within the bounds of traditional Jewish law.
They meet for the first time as rivals in a baseball game between their school teams, that turns into a spiritual war.
The characters include:
Reuven (Robert or Bobby) Malter, a Modern Orthodox teenage boy. Smart, popular, has a head for mathematics and his father wants him to be a mathematician when he grows up.
Daniel (Danny) Saunders, a Hasidic teenage boy. Brilliant with a photographic memory. Interested in psychology, particularly Freudian psychoanalysis. Feels trapped by Hasidic tradition and particularly his role as next in line to succeed his father as Rebbe. He really wants to be a psychologist.
David Malter, Reuven's father. Talmudic scholar, teacher, Zionist. Considered a heretic by fundamentalist Hasidim.
Rabbi Isaac Saunders (Reb Saunders), Danny's father. Rabbinic sage and tzaddik. Rebbe (spiritual leader) of a Hasidic sect, which role is dynastic (passed on from father to son). Moved his congregation from Russia to the United States before the Communist Revolution. He is against a Jewish nation-state.
While the story is taking place, many references are made to outside events, including World War II, the Holocaust, and the founding of the State of Israel. Potok reveals the reactions of different groups to each of these events.While the story is taking place, many references are made to outside events, including World War II, the Holocaust, and the founding of the State of Israel. Potok reveals the reactions of different groups to each of these events.
As the story ends, Danny visits Reuven on his way to Columbia University, his Hasidic locks shorn and his clothing up to date. Reuven has definitely decided he wants to be a rabbi, and is going on to study at a yeshiva. Danny tells Reuven that his younger brother Levi has taken his place as Reb Saunder's successor, while his own relationship with Reb Saunders has completely changed. "We talk all the time now," he says with a smile. Danny is finally set free, and Reuven and Danny taste profoundly the pain of life and the consolation of deep friendship.
Dutton Children's Books May 2008