Farbman is a hustling New York lawyer with a shiksa wife and two kids, living beyond his financial and emotional means. Dunned by his creditors and distressed by an undiagnosed malaise of the soul, Farbman embodies the conflict between our altruistic impulse to help others and our selfish desire to elbow our way to the front of the line. The novel begins on Forty-Second Street in New York City. Farbman is on his way to an out-of-town funeral. He is rushing from a meeting with his unforgiving banker, to his chaotic office, to his parents' home, and then to the airport. Running late, Farbman considers canceling the trip, but doesn't. After the funeral, his lust for a fellow mourner leads him to an encounter with a mystic rabbi. The Hand Before the Eye is the often comic story of a contemporary man. With energetic and ironic prose, Donald Friedman take us into Farbman's world of law and medicine. Through Job-like suffering, Farbman gains enlightenment, learns the spiritual lessons of justice and healing. Finally , he understands that the good life offers us two true gifts: meaningful work and the love of another.
Lawyer David Farbman is a scrambling, perpetually desperate debtor, uninspiring father and dreadful husband. In this intentionally understated and earnest first novel, Farbman is the prism through which readers glean the pervasive anomie and avarice characterizing both domestic and business life, including, unsurprisingly, law offices in midtown Manhattan. Partnered with his friend Marco Marucci, Farbman works at a law practice that serves a pathetic, motley and relatively low-income lineup of clients who insure the protagonist is forever scurrying away from bankers and collection agents. Farbman hardly knows his two kids, Jennifer and Jason, and he hasn't been intimate with his wife, Ann Marie, for too long, but doesn't know how to get the fire back. Furthermore, Farbman's father, an enterprising dentist, self-made real-estater, and jerk, has no respect for his nearly middle-aged son. At a funeral in Illinois, Farbman meets and sleeps with Leah Stein, a hopeful actress who is as connected to the abundant rituals of Judaism as Farbman is remote and aloof from them. Their relationship is profound if sporadic, but the crucial plot twist occurs when Farbman, the hitherto obligatory Jew, discovers the sacred Jewish notion of baal teshuvah (master of the turning) and resolves to transform his hollow life. This intention proves untenable, and before long Farbman finds himself tending to a cancer-stricken wife, a failing business and multiple, blossoming betrayals. Suddenly, the "ordinary unhappiness" he was suffering seems like manageable misery against the inferno he now endures. Friedman sympathetically portrays this much-taxed every-guy while running him through a gauntlet of blunders and cruelties. Farbman's humiliation and loss have a redemptive effect on him, so what is primarily a careful chronicle of workaday shortsightedness concludes moralistically. As the book moves squarely toward the beatific blessedness its once-flawed protagonist has earned, there's a heartening, old-fashioned epiphany and an impassioned finale of spiritual redemption. FYI: This novel won the Mid-List Press First Series Award.