Book Review: The Beautiful Possible
About the book: ” Spanning seventy years and several continents, this enthralling novel tells the braided love story of three unforgettable characters. In 1946, Walter Westhaus, a German-Jewish refugee who spent the war years at Tagore’s ashram in India, arrives at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, where he meets Sol Kerem, a promising rabbinical student. A brilliant nonbeliever, Walter is the perfect foil for Sol’s spiritual questions . . . and an alluring paramour for Sol’s free-spirited fiancée, Rosalie. Months later they shatter their impossible bond, retreating to opposite sides of the country—Walter to pursue an academic career in Berkeley, and Sol and Rosalie to lead a congregation in suburban New York. A chance meeting years later reconnects them—catching three hearts and minds in a complex web of desire, heartbreak, and redemption. With extraordinary empathy and virtuosic skill, The Beautiful Possible considers the hidden boundaries of marriage and faith, and the mysterious ways we negotiate our desires.”
About the author: Amy Gottlieb’s fiction and poetry have been published in many literary journals and anthologies, and she is the recipient of fellowships from the Bronx Council on the Arts and the Drisha Institute for Jewish Education. She lives in New York City.
While it took me a bit to get into this book ( I was getting a bit overwhelmed by a lot of the Jewish terminology and rabbi school bits), I overall enjoyed the story and characters. I love any book where you feel you get to know the characters over time and see how they develop and change- the book spans 50 years from 1938 to 2008.
I appreciated the extensive looks at how Rosalie and Sol looked at themselves and their inner thinking about how they thought of the other and their relationship, particularly as they and their marriage evolves over the years. Walter is essentially with them- emotionally and a few times reappears randomly in their lives- as the third person in their marriage. It reminded me a bit of other books and movies where one partner is always wondering about the life they could have had or the desires they secretly hold, but this book was more dynamic because it represented both husband and wife.The later part of the book shifts a bit as Rosalie and Sol’s children grow up, and the character of Maya, the daughter, pushes the story further in terms of examining relationships, love, and identity.
Since Sol is a rabbi there is a lot of references of Hebrew words and phrases, and prayers from the Torah.I think these were used well within the context and details of the story, but as I said, it did overwhelm me a bit in the early stages of my reading. It was interesting to learn the expectations of a rabbi’s wife, especially in the years when a woman’s role was changing so rapidly in society.
This book would be a great read for anyone who appreciates historical fiction that has some deeper themes and great characters.
As part of the TLC Book Tour of this book, I was provided an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.