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Escape from Mount Moriah: Trials and Triumphs of Making It in the New World Paperback – 18 August 2013
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Beautifully written...grittily honest...delightfully charming...
Readers have spoken. They wanted more from this masterpiece. So 10 new chapters have been added in what many cite as among the finest coming-of-age memoir ever written. Legendary novelist Jack Engelhard (Indecent Proposal) recovers the past with fresh gems in this award-winning book, honored, later in film, for its unique, minimalist style that delivers absolute brilliance. Each short chapter sparkles and shines in this little memoir that could.
Torn from their homes in France at the onset of the Nazi invasion, and after a harrowing escape across the Pyrenees, the Engelhard family -- Noah, Ida, Sarah and Jack -- must begin lives as refugees in a new world -- first Canada (Montreal), later the United States. The experiences that shaped young Jack Engelhard were those that profoundly changed the world. Engelhard, often likened to Hemingway and James M. Cain for precision, helps us understand that life itself is the process of learning who you are.
"In Escape from Mount Moriah, Jack Engelhard achieves the impossible. In a single story, a single page, a single paragraph, even a single sentence, he combines a deep, abiding love with the unvarnished, penetrating gaze of the past, gritty realism with sublime philosophy, brevity with depth, the quintessentially Jewish with the essentially universal, and witty humor with the utmost seriousness."
- Nissan Ratzlav Katz, former Opinion Editor for Israel National News.com
"For my money every one of the 28 stories in this memoir has a latent brilliance and character unmatched in any published stories of their kind. Jack Engelhard is the last of the Hemingways."
- John W. Cassell, author of Crossroads: 1969
"The refugee stories Engelhard preserves are boyhood memories of an almost Tom Sawyer character... adventurous, humorous, sometimes wonderfully strange exploits of a youth during his family's adjustment to a new world."
- Chris Leppek, Jewish News (Denver)
"This book is a winner within its own niche of brilliance...to the child in us, living eternally. Engelhard's balsamic bible of a book."
- Linda Shelnutt
About the Author:
Contemporaries have hailed novelist Jack Engelhard as "the last Hemingway" and of being "a writer without peer and the conscience of us all." The New York Times commended the economy of his prose... "precise, almost clinical language." His bestselling novel Indecent Proposal made him internationally famous as the foremost chronicler of moral dilemmas and of topics dealing with temptation. Works that followed won him an even greater following, such as Escape from Mount Moriah, his book of memoirs that won awards for writing and for film. His latest novel Compulsive draws us into the mind of a compulsive gambler in a work stunningly brilliant and original, and seductively readable. Engelhard writes a weekly column for The Washington Times. His website: www.jackengelhard.com
- Publisher : DayRay Literary Press; 3rd edition (18 August 2013)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 172 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1771430966
- ISBN-13 : 978-1771430968
- Dimensions : 13.97 x 1.09 x 21.59 cm
- Customer Reviews:
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Jack Engelhard has a unique voice, simple and vivid. You feel as if he is talking directly to you and sharing his life in stream of consciousness, one memory after another. I will resist my strong temptation to include any spoilers here. If you lived through any of this period, you will laugh, wince and remember your own moments. This is an important, powerful book that forces you to experience the author’s memories. When memories fade, history repeats itself. We risk that today.
My only complaint about the book is that it ends too quickly, even after the ten extra chapters that were added when others had the same complaint. This book could be the basis of a great TV series each episode another memory that bring characters into your life starting with and going beyond the content of this book.
The book felt almost like a child's book, but not like the sometimes silly stuff which is presented as children's literature. Instead, this book felt like it was meant for the children among us who were born adult, in the good sense of the word, born wise, born serious, born knowing there's much work to be done here; not work of the body, but work for the soul of humankind, which has been lost, ignored, pushed down, and choked.
What most makes me want to read Engelhard's books, especially after The Bathsheba Deadline: An Original Novel (see my review), is the pleasant environment of his easy-flowing style, which percolates with a subtle sense of joy, possibly the result of his deep love of writing surging through every inspired or perfectly chosen word.
The next appeal for reading this author's books is that I know I'll find truths in them I've looked for in print but have rarely found. The soul craves the freshness of finding something new, something regenerating, solidly hopeful in a quiet way which comes from facing ugliness without flinching, then moving forward again because there's still something of value ahead, something worth knowing. Nu, nu, nu (see the book's introductory essays for an explanation of that saying).
I'm thankful that Jack Engelhard honored his resistance to attempting an overwhelming research project to write a different, redundant angle on this story. As he implied in his introduction, all the book needed was for his memories to be convinced he was dedicated, at that time, to collect them on paper.
Having received two of Jack Engelhard's books together I couldn't decide which I wanted to read first. When I was ready to begin one of them, I thought I might decide by reading a few paragraphs of the opening story of each. By default, I began with MORIAH, thinking I'd stop after a page or two, then do the same with INDECENT PROPOSAL. But, I didn't quit reading MORIAH.
By the following morning I had read the whole of that balsamic bible of a book. I loved it. I was impressed as much as I hoped I would be...
When I first saw the book's cover, I had puzzled at the biblical scene. I didn't immediately recognize it as the Rembrandt representation of God's request of Abraham to offer his son on Mount Moriah. I appreciated having the factual details presented inside the cover as well as on it. I was intensely intrigued about that event being said to have led to the creation of the Jewish people. I wanted to know more.
As I opened the covers of ESCAPE FROM MOUNT MORIAH, I was deeply curious about the childhood of a person who has come to write as Jack Engelhard has.
As I read further into the flap copy and introductory remarks, I began anticipating reading something special, not just a book I would welcome getting lost in, living in as a refreshing contrast to my daily routines; but a book in which I would find something worth knowing, something new, different from the repeated density in the majority of books available to readers, maybe something of actual truth.
The heart craves that, especially when it's rarely found.
Usually, I'm not attracted to short story collections, even knowing they might be true, significant, and well-composed. But, I was immediately attached to the chapter titles and blurbs here, especially the appealing Jewish feel of them. The meaning and number of Chai was magnetic to me, as were the type styles.
The book felt to me to be more of a bible than the established ones.
-- Jack Engelhard may not have been the same type of prodigy as his father was (I have no doubt that his father, Noah ben Jacob, has gone to peace and is still there).
-- Jack may not have assimilated every holy word and underlying truth in the Books of Moses, as his father had, but, with Jack's light touch, he has written his own holy words of truth, and has honored his father in the process.
Jack wrote Noah as he was, as well as how he appeared to Jack in Jack's efforts to know him in both his dark/wounded and bright/spiritual exposures, and Jack related to his father to the best of his straight-on, eyes-focused nature.
My favorite chapter was "A Telegram From Israel," conveying a holy moment confirming compassion, even though it kept Jack's father temporarily in the dark about his mother's death. Describing the moment of that sacred omen, Engelhard writes, "... from utter darkness came incredible radiance." The father's response to Jack's act of compassion was perfection, as was his father's conclusion about the coincidence of the experience of brilliance breaking through dark clouds.
That situation made me wonder if God might have wanted Abraham to say "No" to His request of offering. I want to believe that Abraham's God was a loving one and would have made right either choice for that unique, splitting-of-universes decision.
Possibly my second favorite chapter was Engelhard's holding to his words, "I resign," (the chapter's title) instead of damning himself with, "I quit."
Or, was my next favorite the respect awarded to young Jack by the druggist, Mr. Roberts, following Jack's successful grappling with fears surged in "The Purple Gang" territory.
The core of sadness for my empathy was in the uncle's reaction to love from a nephew in "Relatives from America," and the brutality trials Jack suffered in "The Fairmount Synagogue Choir."
Jack Engelhard is the one who conveys emotion without emotion. (In his review of my Amazon Short, DARK DIAMOND TWILIGHT, Engelhard had said that of my writing style).
After finishing MORIAH, I felt great admiration for Engelhard's father, and was devastated that Noah wasn't allowed to live his life as the highest, holy Rabbi he could have been.
Yet, maybe he accomplished more, for his son, for himself, and for his world, through those dedicated times in the synagogues, in which he grew from a polite, quiet discounting of the officiating Rabbi's inaccuracies in reading scripture, into a bold countering of the corruption of truth. Maybe the reason Noah never found his equal with whom to argue into the truest interpretations of the holy books, was because he had no equal in that. He had only the truth of the meaning in, under, and above the words. I would bet that every Rabbi Noah encountered with his corrections never forgot what Noah had said. Maybe those Rabbis went forth percolating with the right vision from Noah, somehow radiating that cleansing of misconception into our future, the future of rightness to come.
Through his books, Jack is continuing Noah ben Jacob's legacy of synagogue interruption, contributing his literary voice, which I believe has surpassed the golden choir boy (Jack's honed skill Vs the darling golden boy's luck).
As I had read through each chapter, I noticed a flickering in the voice Engelhard used in MORIAH. He seemed to speak as the child he was, with flashes opening onto a voice of the present of his writing the book. One of my favorite uses of voice would be like that, the child writing about the child, except for those few cracks through time when the present heart slips back, sending wisdom gained through time, to heal the child that was, and still is.
To the child in each of us, living eternally,
Linda G. Shelnutt
Shelnutt is the author of several books on Amazon Kindle and Amazon Shorts, including QUARTER MOON DUES.
The stories are short and a world unto themselves and, among other things, show the unfortunate pettiness of WWII survivors who have been marked by their experiences and grab at any opportunity to get some revenge.
This book is dripping with nostalgia, grace and charm. The only bad thing about it is that it isn't longer.
Shocking fact: Engelhard also wrote "Indecent Proposal" (yes, the one that made it to the movies with Demi Moore and Robert Redford)