A New York Times Notable Book of 2017
Named Best Book of 2017 by Esquire, Times Literary Supplement, Elle Magazine, LitHub, Publishers Weekly, Financial Times, Guardian, Refinery29, Popsugar, and Globe and Mail
"A brilliant novel. I am full of admiration." —Philip Roth
"One of America’s most important novelists" (New York Times), the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of The History of Love, conjures an achingly beautiful and breathtakingly original novel about personal transformation that interweaves the stories of two disparate individuals—an older lawyer and a young novelist—whose transcendental search leads them to the same Israeli desert.
Jules Epstein, a man whose drive, avidity, and outsized personality have, for sixty-eight years, been a force to be reckoned with, is undergoing a metamorphosis. In the wake of his parents’ deaths, his divorce from his wife of more than thirty years, and his retirement from the New York legal firm where he was a partner, he’s felt an irresistible need to give away his possessions, alarming his children and perplexing the executor of his estate. With the last of his wealth, he travels to Israel, with a nebulous plan to do something to honor his parents. In Tel Aviv, he is sidetracked by a charismatic American rabbi planning a reunion for the descendants of King David who insists that Epstein is part of that storied dynastic line. He also meets the rabbi’s beautiful daughter who convinces Epstein to become involved in her own project—a film about the life of David being shot in the desert—with life-changing consequences.
But Epstein isn’t the only seeker embarking on a metaphysical journey that dissolves his sense of self, place, and history. Leaving her family in Brooklyn, a young, well-known novelist arrives at the Tel Aviv Hilton where she has stayed every year since birth. Troubled by writer’s block and a failing marriage, she hopes that the hotel can unlock a dimension of reality—and her own perception of life—that has been closed off to her. But when she meets a retired literature professor who proposes a project she can’t turn down, she’s drawn into a mystery that alters her life in ways she could never have imagined.
Bursting with life and humor, Forest Dark is a profound, mesmerizing novel of metamorphosis and self-realization—of looking beyond all that is visible towards the infinite.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
There were moments in Nicole Krauss’ extraordinary novel that made us catch our breath, astonished by her ability to pierce straight to the truth about motherhood, marriage, and modern life. Forest Dark tells the story of two seekers: 68-year-old Jules Epstein, who after spending his life amassing wealth and status starts to shed all his belongings and achievements, and an unnamed almost-40 author from Brooklyn who wants to jumpstart her writing and move on from her strained relationship with her husband. Both their paths take them to Tel Aviv, which Krauss brings to life with stunning depth and clarity.
Krauss's elegant, provocative, and mesmerizing novel is her best yet. Rich in profound insights and emotional resonance, it follows two characters on their paths to self-realization. In present-day Israel, two visiting Americans one a young wife, mother, and novelist, the other an elderly philanthropist experience transcendence. In alternating chapters, Krauss (The History of Love) first presents Jules Epstein, a high-powered retired Manhattan lawyer whose relentless energy has dimmed with his recent divorce, the death of his parents, and an inchoate desire to divest himself of the chattels of his existence. A change of POV introduces a narrator a Brooklyn resident named Nicole who has a failing marriage, two young children, and writer's block. Both Jules and Nicole are vulnerable to despair and loss of faith, and trust in conventional beliefs. Although they never meet, similar existential crises bring them to Tel Aviv, where each is guided by a mysterious Israeli and experiences glimpses of a surreal world where they feel their true identities lie. A charismatic rabbi, Menachem Klausner, claims that Jules is a descendant of King David. Meanwhile, Nicole is lured into meeting Eliezer Friedman, a retired literature professor and perhaps an ex-Mossad agent who attempts to convince Nicole of a preposterous but increasingly alluring idea: that Franz Kafka didn't die in Prague but secretly was smuggled into Israel. He wants Nicole to write about the hidden life of this famous literary figure. Nicole's conversations with Friedman and Epstein's with Klausner about God and the creation of the world are bracingly intellectual and metaphysical. Vivid, intelligent, and often humorous, this novel is a fascinating tour de force.
Good not Great
Nicole Krauss uses language masterfully. This work kept me going but feels like two separate almost unrelated stories because the characters aren’t connected as in History of Love, which is magnificent. Good but not great.
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