CD - Retail Edition
( 9 CDs / 10.75 Hours )
By: Recorded Books, LLC
Narrated By: Jonathan Davis
Few stories offer more warmth, wisdom, or generosity than this tale of two boys, their fathers, their friendship, and the chaotic times in which they live. Though on the surface it explores religious faith--the intellectually committed as well as the passionately observant--the struggles addressed in The Chosen are familiar to families of all faiths and in all nations.
In 1940s Brooklyn, New York, an accident throws Reuven Malther and Danny Saunders together. Despite their differences (Reuven is a Modern Orthodox Jew with an intellectual, Zionist father; Danny is the brilliant son and rightful heir to a Hasidic rebbe), the young men form a deep, if unlikely, friendship. Together they negotiate adolescence, family conflicts, the crisis of faith engendered when Holocaust stories begin to emerge in the U.S., loss, love, and the journey to adulthood. The intellectual and spiritual clashes between fathers, between each son and his own father, and between the two young men, provide a unique backdrop for this exploration of fathers, sons, faith, loyalty, and, ultimately, the power of love.
"Anyone who finds it is finding a jewel. Its themes are profound and universal."
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
It is the now-classic story of two fathers and two sons and the pressures on all of them to pursue the religion they share in the way that is best suited to each. And as the boys grow into young men, they discover in the other a lost spiritual brother, and a link to an unexplored world that neither had ever considered before. In effect, they exchange places, and find the peace that neither will ever retreat from again....
The Chosen is a story of the friendship between two Jewish boys growing up in 1940s Brooklyn. Reuven Malter, the narrator of the story, is the son of a writer and scholar who follows modern methods of studying Judaism and he is Orthodox. Danny is the genius son of a Hasidic rabbi, whose people live completely within the bounds of traditional Jewish law.
The Chosen is set in the 1940s, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York City. The story takes place over a period of three years, beginning in 1944 when the protagonists are fifteen years old. It is set against the backdrop of the historical events of the time: the end of World War II, the death of President Roosevelt, the revelation of the Holocaust in Europe, and the struggle for the creation of the state of Israel.
They meet for the first time as rivals in a Baseball game between their school teams that turns into a spiritual war. Danny's batting style is such that the ball is sent speeding back up the middle, and so he receives a reputation of trying to kill pitchers. Angered by unsuccessful attempts to hit Reuven's previous pitches, Danny hits a line drive toward Reuven, shattering his glasses and sending him to the hospital, with an injured eye.
Danny visits Reuven in the hospital, and Reuven at first rejects his attempts to apologize. Reuven's father, however, insists that he make peace with Danny, telling him "A boy like that needs friends." After a struggle a friendship develops between the two. Reuven learns about Danny's life, and finds that the Hasidic boy is very different from his expectations. Danny admits to Reuven "I wanted to kill you" when they played baseball together, but did not know why; after a soul-search, Danny realized he was jealous of Reuven's more conventional lifestyle.
Danny's phenomenal mind compels him to seek knowledge outside what is permitted by his father, and he spends his spare time reading voraciously in secret in the public library. (Danny tells Reuven about an older man he met there who has been recommending books for him to read; both are astonished when the man turns out to be Reuven's own father.) Danny does not want to inherit his father's position as leader of their sect, as is expected of him; he desires instead to become a psychologist. Another great conflict in his life is that his father does not speak to him, except when they study Jewish law together; this has been so since he was a toddler.
Reb Saunders welcomes Reuven as his son's friend, even though he disapproves of his father's work. "You think it is easy to be a friend?" Reb Saunders says to Reuven when they first meet. "If you are truly his friend, you will learn otherwise." Reuven does learn as he is put in the position of being a buffer between father and son. Although he deeply upsets Danny by informing Reb Saunders of his son's secular studies, Danny forgives him and their friendship continues. Reuven impresses Reb Saunders by his understanding of Jewish law and tradition. Reb Saunders impresses Reuven in turn, as Reuven sees the important role he plays to the people of his congregation.
Reuven comes to experience the pain of silence himself, while the two young men are in college together. Though accepted as family after he stays with the Saunderses while his father is away, he incurs Reb Saunders's wrath when he speaks favorably of the struggle to establish a secular Jewish nation in Palestine, which Saunders vehemently opposes. When Mr. Malter makes a speech at a pro-Israel rally that makes the newspapers, Saunders forbids his son to speak to Reuven, or even mention his name. (Danny breaks this order once, to let Reuven know, but tells him "I won't go against my father. I won't!") The ban lasts for two years, during which time Reuven experiences anguish, rage, and depression (particularly after his father has a heart attack), before learning to cope with being alone.
Their friendship resumes after modern Israel is founded; Danny explains to Reuven that Reb Saunders has relented, since the new nation is "no longer an issue; it's a fact." Reuven finds that Danny has come to terms with the silence imposed by his father, having discovered that silence can be a teacher, and a source of beauty as well as pain. Danny himself waits in fear for the day following graduation, when he must tell his father that he does not wish to succeed him. (Reb Saunders already knows this to be true, after Danny receives an acceptance letter from Columbia University.)
Father and son reconciled
Reuven again finds himself a buffer between father and son when, in the novel's climax, the two friends learn Reb Saunders's purpose for raising his son in silence: Reb Saunders had discovered early on that his son's dawning intelligence was far outstripping his sense of compassion for others. He wanted his son to understand the meaning of pain and want, so he shut him out emotionally. Finding the grown-up Danny indeed had a heart, and cared deeply about other people, Reb Saunders was willing to give his blessing to Danny's dream of studying psychology. "He will be a tzaddik for the world," Reb Saunders tells Reuven. Saunders then finally, after many years, truly talks to Danny, asking him to forgive him for the pain he caused, bringing him up as he did.
Danny visits Reuven on his way to Columbia University, his Hasidic locks shorn and his clothing up to date. Reuven has definitely decided he wants to be a rabbi, and is going on to study at a yeshiva. Danny tells Reuven that his younger brother Levi will take his place as his father's successor, and his own relationship with Reb Saunders has completely changed. "We talk now," he says quietly. Danny is finally set free, and Reuven and Danny taste profoundly the pain in life, and the consolation of deep friendship.
* Reuven (Robert or Bobby) Malter, a Modern Orthodox teenage boy. Smart, popular, has a head for mathematics, and his father wants him to be a mathematician when he grows up.
* Daniel (Danny) Saunders, a Hasidic teenage boy. Brilliant with a photographic memory. Interested in psychology, particularly Freudian psychoanalysis. Feels trapped by Hasidic tradition, and particularly his role as next in line to succeed his father as Rabbi. He really wants to become a psychologist.
* David Malter, Reuven's father. Talmudic scholar, teacher, Zionist. Considered a heretic by fundamentalist Hasidim. Supports the creation of the state of Israel because of his belief in the Messianic Age rather than a literal Messiah.
* Rabbi Isaac Saunders (Reb Saunders), Danny's father. Rabbinic sage and tzaddik. Rebbe (spiritual leader) of a Hasidic sect, which role is dynastic (passed on from father to son). Moved his congregation from Russia to the United States before the Communist Revolution. He is against a secular Jewish nation-state, because he believes this supersedes God's will.
While the story is taking place, many references are made to outside events, including World War II, the Holocaust, and the founding of the State of Israel. Potok reveals the reactions of different groups to each of these events.
Literary themes within the book include widespread references to senses (especially sight), the pursuit of truth in a gray world, the strength of friendship, and the importance of father-son relationships. Many themes common to Potok's works prevail such as weak women and children, strong father figures, intellectual characters, and the strength and validity of faith in a modern secular world. Potok accentuates the importance of silence, and its form as a medium of communication. Throughout the book, there are numerous instances where both Danny and Reuven both receive and process information in a non-verbal form. Potok explicitly introduces this topic by alluding to the relationship between Danny and his father, where there is no verbal communication except for argumentative discussions of a religious nature. The two-year long silence between Danny and Reuven, imposed by Reb Saunders, is also rich in communicative interactions between the two friends; however, it effectively shows the constraints that silence can impose between individuals.
Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
The Chosen was made into a movie in 1981 and into a play in 1999. Potok wrote a sequel titled The Promise.