“The Book of Norman” by Allan Appel— Sibling Rivalry

Appel, Allan. “The Book of Norman, A Novel”, Mandal Vilar, 2017.

Sibling Rivalry

Amos Lassen

In Allan Appel’s “The Book of Norman”, a sibling rivalry begins when brothers Norman and Jon Gould compete for their dead father’s soul. Norman is a recent drop-out from the New York Jewish Seminary, who now wants to experience what he missed while being in the seminary and that is a lot since the novel is set during the Summer of Love when sex, love and rock and roll were happening right outside his window. up on his generation’s sex, love, and rock ‘n’ roll. His brother Jon gets short hair cut, sells his stash of grass and begins conversion to become a Mormon. Norman tries to pull his brother back to Judaism while Jon tries to prove to Norman that Mormonism is the true path. This is a fun and irreverent look at American religious difference.

Both sons struggle with sharing their new religious approaches to their Jewish mother, a recent widow who already has a boyfriend just ten months after the death of her husband and which Norman is none too happy about. The focus of the novel is Norman and Jon’s deceased father’s soul. They argue over whether their father should be converted to Mormonism after his death so that he can have a Mormon afterlife, which Jon prefers, or whether Norman should say Caddish to keep his father’s soul in a Jewish afterlife (even though he is leery about any type of afterlife). It seems that the status and location of a person’s soul has more significance in the Mormon faith than in Judaism says Jon and Mormon elders. Even though he has dropped out of rabbinical school Norman does not believe in souls in the first place but he becomes passionate about the state of his father’s soul and this changes his relationship with his brother forever. brother.

Norman and Jon come home for the summer to work at a Jewish day camp While at camp, they meet two beautiful Israeli female counselors and Norman becomes sexually obsessed with them. Jon goes in the opposite direction and does not look at the women who tend to des immodestly. Jon notices that there is something unusual about the women since they turn up at certain places and events that are important to Norman, including a Shabbat service and during a tense and strange basketball game between Mormons and Jews to determine the status of his father’s soul. Norman thinks that they must be angels and refers to them as angels throughout the book.

Writer Allan Appel takes us into the mind of Norman and we see that he is a confused, young man who is trying to find out just who he is. In leaving rabbinic Judaism, he becomes indulgent as he leaves the kosher laws behind but not to worry— Norman and Jon both realize that it is impossible to leave their Jewish roots and culture.

 

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