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kaddish.com by Nathan Englander

kaddish.com by Nathan Englander
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£18.99

Nathan Englander is the “funniest of the present crop of Jewish-American writers”, said Tanjil Rashid in The Times. And in his hilarious new novel, he tackles an enduring Jewish theme: fathers and sons. Larry is a lapsed “New York Jew” whose dad has just died. To fulfil his obligations, he’s required to recite the Kaddish (mourning prayer) for a year, but all he wants to do is watch porn and masturbate. (In one “gross-out scene” recalling Portnoy’s Complaint, he disposes of his semen in a fish tank.) When Larry discovers kaddish.com, a website that allows errant sons to pay a proxy to recite their prayers, his problems appear to be over.

Except it doesn’t quite turn out like that, said Andrew Holgate in The Sunday Times. “Fast-forward 20 years and Larry is now Rabbi Shuli, an impeccably Orthodox teacher.” Racked with guilt over youthful misdeeds, he goes in search of the “surrogate to whom he entrusted his father’s spiritual well-being”, a shift that leads Englander to abandon satire for a more serious tone. This makes the novel feel “unbalanced”, though it remains “crisply written” and “charming”.