kaddish.com

A novel
Narrated by: Rob Shapiro
Length: 5 hrs and 33 mins
4 out of 5 stars (76 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The celebrated Pulitzer finalist and prize-winning author of Dinner at the Center of the Earth and What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank delivers his best work yet, a streamlined comic masterpiece about a son’s failure to say Kaddish for his father.

Larry is the secular son in a family of Orthodox Brooklyn Jews. When his father dies, it’s his responsibility to recite the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, every day for 11 months. To the horror and dismay of his sister, Larry refuses - imperiling the fate of his father’s soul. To appease her, Larry hatches an ingenious if cynical plan, hiring a stranger through a website called kaddish.com to recite the prayer and shepherd his father’s soul safely to rest.

Sharp, irreverent, hilarious, and wholly irresistible, Englander’s tale of a son who makes a diabolical compromise ingeniously captures the tensions between tradition and modernity - a book to be devoured in a single sitting whose pleasures and provocations will be savored long after.

©2019 Nathan Englander (P)2019 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"This is the rare and extraordinary audiobook that reaches new heights because of the narrator's flawless performance. Rob Shapiro delivers the material perfectly while enhancing every scene with a style and diversity of tones and emotions that highlight each moment.... Listeners will want to replay the audiobook to experience every nuance of Englander's prose and Shapiro's exceptional performance." (AudioFile Magazine)

"Englander is mischievously hilarious, nightmarish, suspenseful, inquisitive, and deliriously tender in this concentrated tale of tradition and improvisation, faith and love." (Booklist

"[An] excellent comic dissection of Jewish-American life...This novel reads like Chaim Potok filtered through the sensibility of Mel Brooks. Englander writes cogently about Jewish-American assimilation, and, in his practiced hands, he makes Shuli’s journey, both outer and inner, a simultaneously humorous and deeply moving one." (Publishers Weekly

What listeners say about kaddish.com

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Almost Perfect

The narrator had a little trouble with consistency between Ashkenazic and Sephardic pronunciation but was otherwise great. Some pronunciation choices made me cringe.

The ending was a bit disappointing, a little too G-Rated for a book that decidedly was not. Fun, entertaining and well worth the time.

7 people found this helpful

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Contrived and Disappointing

How has it come to this?

Nathan Englander may well be the finest current practitioner of the Jewish short story. His “For the Relief of Unbearable Urges,” “How We Avenged the Blums,” and “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank” are all at least minor masterpieces, and I can’t imagine teaching a Jewish-American literature class without at least mentioning him these days.

But someone, maybe him and maybe his agent, has told him he has to turn out a novel in order to be genuinely big time.

His first attempt, The Ministry of Special Cases, had some powerful moments, including its remarkable opening conceit of a character who literally erases history. (His job is to scour grave markers so that the children and grandchildren of the criminal element can deny their ancestors’ crimes.) It goes on too long and descends into an unrelieved darkness, but it’s certainly worthwhile.

His second, Dinner at the Center of the Earth, strikes me as almost a great novel. It has a couple scenes – the one of Ariel Sharon reliving a moment when he was blown sky-high by a mortar – that are masterful, and it asks some brutal and powerful questions about Israeli hopes for peace. It ends on a somewhat unearned note, but I highly recommend it. When it came out two years ago, I assumed our next Englander would finally be a great novel.

But this one, his third, isn’t merely flawed like its predecessors. It’s a flat-out bad book.

For starters, this is a highly contrived story. Our protagonist, whom we meet in the days of his irreligiousity, hires an on-line company to say the Jewish prayer for the dead twice a day for his recently deceased father. Years later, he comes to think of himself as having sold a crucial birthright, and he sets out to buy it back.

I’ll skip the convoluted descriptions of how he comes to track down the people behind the website, but I’ll point out that there’s nothing inherently “modern” about hiring people to say Kaddish. It’s a central plot point in Israel Zangwill’s The King of the Schnorrers, published 125 years ago, and it’s a long and nearly honored practice. There may not be a full transfer of “birthright” as takes place here, but the distinction is so narrow that – without more reflection than Englander offers – it comes across as a particular complaint of a particular individual. It’s not a moral issue, and it isn’t really even an issue of Jewish law. It’s just a man who won’t forgive himself (as his wife repeatedly tells him) and a plot contrived to give him excuses not to do so.

In addition, there’s no substantive character development. Our protagonist is so anti-religious at the start that he – in line with Alexander Portnoy – streams porn on his nephew’s computer right after sitting shiva for his father. Then, without pretense of explanation, he becomes devout, marries, and takes a job teaching at his own childhood religious school. We never see why he’s so transformed and, while there might be intrigue in that omission, it seems as if it’s central to his motivation to track down the people behind the website. That is, the lesser part of his thinking is crucial to what’s happening in the novel while the larger question goes by without giving us opportunity to ponder it.

And, finally, this undermines much of what makes Englander’s short stories so powerful. As someone raised in the Orthodox world, he has always had the capacity to show us Orthodoxy without exoticizing it. His characters are three-dimensional; they take the world as they find it.

Here, though, we’re left to look on the world of the Orthodox as implicitly peculiar. They’re wedded to rituals, well, because. Because they’re wedded to rituals. Their character is less who they are and more how they define themselves through actions. If it had been much blunter, we might have gotten a glossary at the back translating the ‘strange’ conduct of our characters into ‘real and comprehensible’ English.

I’ll acknowledge there’s a residue of serious question here, and there are a couple of scenes where Englander seems within two steps of his best and most sublime work, but I am deeply disappointed on the whole. He’s shown us that he has it in him to be among our very best writers. With this, I have come to doubt it.

6 people found this helpful

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Enh. Religious and spiritual, not a comedy at all

(As posted in GoodReads)
Enh, it started out mildly amusing, but then, not so much. It was clearly not a humorous story but rather a religion and spiritual one. I really didn't much like it, and I wish that the reviewer that I read had not emphasized that it was funny. It wasn't so much.

1 person found this helpful

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excellent storyline

excellent storyline and accurate depictions of orthodox culture. I would recommend this book to anyone.

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Kaddish. Com

I found the story predictable. Not at all surprised by anything. The performance was done.

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Entertaining and informative

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the narrator was perfect. Just enough humour to keep it entertaining while also being informative in the Jewish customs of saying kaddish for a lost loved one.

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a little odd

it got a little weird at the end. really kind of an odd duck all the way through

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Problematic performance

Not sure if the text itself has too much pathos for my taste, but the performance sure does. The way Shapiro pronouces the Hebrew words reeks of effort, he overdoes the Israeli accent, using it in a billion places where an American jew would use a different pronunciation, and misses the emphasis where Israelis wouldn't. So annoying to anyone who's ever heard Hebrew spoken by any of these groups.

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You don't have to be Jewish...

I really enjoyed this book from page one. I listened to the audible and the voices made it even better. I'm not Jewish, but that did not take away from the book at all. I learned a lot about Jewish beliefs and practices, and I feel I am a better person from reading it. The author definitely has a way with words. I plan to read another book by Nathan Englander.

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quite a religious mystery!

between the religuous fervor of a prodigal son and the synocism of a criminal, the storyteller weaves quite a maze of conflicting motives and conflicted consciences. As any good mystery should, the reader is completely taken off-guard by the last few chapters.
The narrator did an excellant job of rendering the accent and subculture of hasidim, drawing his characters as familiar loveable men and women. Even the scoundrels we can empathize with to some extent. There are places where he speaks rapidly using yiddish and Hebrew phrases that I couldnt catch. But otherwise a very good speaker.