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10 Jewish men in a world that is heartbroken. By Eliezer Sobel (244 Pages)Publisher: University of Tennessee, 2004
Winner of the Peter Taylor Prize for the Novel, Minyan is the story of Norbert Wilner, a man who has mastered the art of arrested development. At thirty-seven, he lives in New York City, still trying to find his place in the world and still hanging out with the Jewish guys he grew up with in the Jersey suburbs. Most of them remain single and continue to search for God, women, and a good deli sandwich, though not necessarily in that order. Bernstein is a Hindu, Greenblatt's a Sufi, Weissbaum worships Willie Mays, and nobody likes Finkelstein, the big-shot lawyer and born-again Christian. And Freddy Lipschitz has just died.
As these middle-aged men gather to mourn their childhood friend, they begin to take stoc--and make shtick--of their failed relationships, missed opportunities, questionable careers, and the underlying sense of dread that pervades their existence. Norbert takes the opportunity to make two important decisions: he will become a rabbi to save other Jewish souls, and he will start the Happy Hearse Funeral Parlor.
Despite growing up in the seemingly carefree America of the 1950s, Norbert and his friends still find themselves living in the long shadow of the Holocaust. Fearful children of nervous Jewish mothers, they were instructed to be wary of everyone and everything; to lock the doors, wear earmuffs and marry Jewish girls.
A chance meeting with the eccentric Reb Miltie helps Norbert clarify his spiritual life. He begins to find salvation through humor, the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, and the camaraderie of lifelong friends as they passionately pursue meaning, marriage and the healing properties of brisket. Inventive, lyrical, and poignantly funny, Minyan celebrates endurance, men baffled by the affairs of the adult world, and the healing power of laughter and friendship.
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