Now, as you may or may not know, I’m not a big reader of fiction. In the old days, I used to get far too ‘caught up’ in the plot, or the storyline, and be unable to put a book down until it was finished - which is a real problem when you have to look after other members of the family who can’t wait to eat their supper until you’ve reached the denouement.
So that’s one reason I stopped reading so much fiction. Another reason I stopped reading fiction is because a few years’ ago, I decided to only read books by frum Jews and there was precious little in the way of frum fiction that I found really appealing.
So when a book called ‘Open when you are’ by frum Jewish author Ben Ackerman came my way, I initially eyed it a little skeptically. Was this going to be another tale of Breindys and Moishes stuck in some shidduch crisis, or suffering from a spate of robberies in their bungalow colony?
Cautiously, I started reading the book - and dear reader, I was completely hooked from page 2!
I know this sounds a little perverse, but it was so amazing to read a scintillating piece of Jewish fiction that had such a solid spiritual side to it my soul was completely satisfied, but without anyone being called ‘Shaindy’ or ‘Shloimie’, and not a kugel in sight.
In some ways, ‘Open when you are’ is a classic tale of good versus bad, and light versus darkness, and the many difficult choices we all have to face as Jews with a foot planted firmly in both the spiritual and material spheres.
But one of the amazing things about the book is that while I could completely relate to the spiritual struggles being depicted, and it also made me feel really good about being a Jew, and about the Jewish mission to be a light unto the nations, God and Judaism weren’t mentioned even once.
The story rollicked along at a really good pace, there were enough twists and turns to keep me reading briskly (yes, I finished it in one go…now my kids are teens, I can do that on Shabbat mornings, most weeks now.)
The dialogue was entertaining, occasionally laugh out loud amusing, and frequently so deep - in an easy to read way - that it was almost like reliving the earnest ‘meaning of life’ discussions I used to enjoy so much in university. Except let’s be clear, Ben Ackerman’s characters had far more clarity, and far better explanations than anything I used to get from the Hillel House.
This book made me feel really happy to be a religious Jew. It made me really happy that I’m not the only person out there who is also seeing what’s really lurking under the perfect, shiny façade of the modern world. And it made me really happy that there are frum Jews writing the sort of frum fiction that could easily hold its own against any mainstream fiction, while still being so darned
nourishing for the soul.
Ackerman’s story managed to capture the essence of what it means to be a believing Jew without once mentioning the ‘J’ word, God, or Torah and mitzvot.
Quite a feat!
So, I highly, highly, highly recommend this book to all frum Jews who’d like something ‘lighter’ to read; and also to anyone who’s struggling a little to understand why be Jewish (whatever their age, but I can see this book especially appealing to teenagers), and to anyone who wants to understand what the fight between good and darkness in the modern world is really all about.
Open when you are by Ben Ackerman is available to buy on Amazon HERE,
FROM THE BACK COVER:
Gabel's eatery is always open, feeding hungry hearts, bodies, and souls. When Strad, a young man at odds with life, wanders in, an uncanny encounter propels him on a journey to the hidden Fifth-Dimension of Altruego. He meets a people with ancient roots and a mysterious mission, whose curious customs and odd-sounding ideas somehow snap the missing puzzle pieces of Strad's life into place.
After a startling discovery and some "mystical" cooking lessons from Gabel, Strad returns home ready to bring the harmonizing secret of Fifth-Dimensional vision to a world constrained by the four dimensions of space and time, and gasping for spiritual air. But a powerful foe with an insidious agenda is just as driven to see him fail. In the short time it takes to read this dynamic, entertaining novel, you'll gain an electrifying new perspective on reality. Altruego may be an allegory, but its door to a different dimension is real, and OPEN -- when YOU are.
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