prayersPrayers for the Living, National Public Radio commentator Alan Cheuse’s mythic story of the American Dream gone to pieces is both grandiose in its vision and loving in its familiarity. Presented in a series of conversations between grandmother Minnie Bloch and her companions, the novel creates a layered family portrait of three generations of the Bloch family, whose members are collapsing under everyday burdens and brutal betrayals.

Her son Manny is a renowned, almost legendary rabbi. Respected by his congregants and surrounded by family, he yearns secretly for a life of greater personal glory. When an oracular bird delivers what Manny believes to be a message from his deceased father, he abandons his pulpit in pursuit of a life in business, and his entire life spirals out of control. As his fortunes rise in the corporate realm, Manny falls deeper into an affair with a congregant; his wife’s alcoholism and depression become more profound; and his daughter Sarah is sexually traumatized at a nearby college.

Incapable of offering either his wife or daughter the support they need, Manny becomes the target of Sarah’s plot to shatter his beloved new empire. The devoted family matriarch, Minnie, observes and recounts her family’s tragic downfall with language as realistic and incantatory as any dreamer’s can be. Move over Ishmael, here comes Minnie Bloch.

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“A tour de force of voice, character, and psychology from an American master at the height of his powers. Minnie Bloch’s tale of her family’s slow disintegration echoes Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! recast in New York and New Jersey, a search for understanding and meaning amidst the wreckage of a life gone off the rails in pursuit of the American dream.”

—Christian Kiefer, author of The Animals

“Cheuse enlarges the immigrant tale of aspiration and loss. His narrator, in a lyrically heightened dialect as bold and capacious as the voices of William Faulkner, propels the story toward its conclusion with a dire largeness of scope that deserves the word ‘tragic.’”

—Robert Pinsky, author of Gulf Music

About The Author

alan_cheuseAcclaimed author Alan Cheuse, National Public Radio’s longtime book commentator, is the author of five novels, five collections of short stories and novellas, the memoir Fall Out of Heaven, and A Trance After Breakfast, a collection of travel essays.

His latest book is PRAYERS FOR THE LIVING.

For more than three decades Cheuse has been a regular contributor to National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” His short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Ploughshares, The Antioch Review, Prairie Schooner, New Letters, The Idaho Review, and The Southern Review, among other places. He teaches in the Writing Program at George Mason University and the Squaw Valley Community of Writers.