My Name is Asher Lev, by Chaim Potok
Here we have my Classics Spin #9 title. I am so glad I put Chaim Potok on my Classics Club list; I read The Chosen some time ago (and I'm glad I got that one first) and was looking forward to Asher Lev. There will be more Potok in my future, but I have to go slowly, what with all the heartbreak.
Asher's story starts with his birth and family background; he's born into a sect of Hasidic Judaism (in the book called Ladover, but resembling Lubavitch Hasidism). His father works for their beloved Rabbi, traveling to help European Jews, especially those in Russia. Asher is only little when his mother's beloved younger brother dies and she is thrown into a deep depression and breakdown, which marks him deeply. He loves to draw--in fact he has to draw--but his father strongly disapproves of such time-wasting nonsense. Fearful for his mother and pressured by his father, Asher stops drawing but has...some issues. By the time he is ten, the poor little guy is a mess. I had a hard time reading his story.
Asher is terribly frightened of the rabbi, but he turns out to be Asher's best advocate. I love this. The rabbi's influence helps Asher on to the difficult but necessary path of his life.
I loved loved loved this novel, but it is seriously heartbreaking. Be prepared for that, but do read it. I'm not sure if I want to read the much-later sequel; anyone have an opinion on that?