The Book of Jonah – Joshua Max Feldman

Jonah Jacobstein knows what he wants from his life. He’s spent hours upon hours building his career into that of a hot shot up and coming young attorney. In fact he can tell you the precise number of hours he’s spent doing it. He knows pretty much everything he feels he needs to know about himself and when he lands a massive client, he knows that he is securely on the path to meeting his goals.

However, that all begins to shift, tilt, and slide off the rails when he visits a cousin and has a vision. Not a hyped up drugged out sort of vision. No, this is the kind where the world around you disappears and you begin to see things that only the divine would see. This is obviously more than mildly concerting for Jonah and it sets the course of his life into motion down a very different path.

Judith is a young woman who also understands where she wants to be. Driven from the time she was a young child to be better than those around her, she pursues academics with a fierce and abiding passion until she is far ahead of those around her. When tragedy strikes and she’s suddenly left without parents, she knows nothing other than to continue to press on toward the goal they helped her set.

This book was pitched as a modern day retelling of the story of Jonah. I was more than a little curious about what could be done with a story about a man swallowed by a whale and prophetic visions, so I decided to give it a shot.

The writing was incredible. Word pictures were beautifully drawn with a precise description that immediately transports the reader to the universe that Feldman has created. The depth of the characters, the reasons for each action and the thoughts pinballing through each character’s minds are insightful to a fault. As I was reading, there was almost a level of guilty voyeurism in understanding them better than they understood themselves. The mastery of character, dialogue and description were stunning from this debut author.

The storyline moved along at a fast clip but I admit to moments of being bogged down by some of Jonah’s choices. I also had to stop myself from drawing too many biblical parallels as it began to detract from my enjoyment of the book as a whole. I would have almost preferred not to have the pitch about the whale story and just let this Jonah take me on his own story. That would have removed a level of my own expectations that weren’t really met by the story. Jonah and Judith have a unique story that I felt had little to do with the story of Jonah from the Bible beyond the visions and the running away. Also, this isn’t an adventure for those of a conservative nature. Jonah and Judith do not hold to conservative values and this is obvious in their actions throughout.

All in all, this was an impressive first outing from Feldman and I’m curious to see what he’ll bring to the table next.

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