Reviewed by Vera Pereskokova
When Rosalie meets Sol Kerem at a lecture, she’s convinced they’re meant to be. Rosalie’s father was a rabbi–Rosalie is determined to be a good rabbi’s wife to Sol.
At his Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City in the 1940s, Sol is the star pupil, the next great American rabbi. When Walter Westhaus arrives at the Seminary from spending the war years at Tagore’s ashram in India, Sol doesn’t think much of this strange, quiet man. Having lost his father and his fiancee to the Nazis, Walter is absorbed in his own thoughts and lost in the haze of spices he sniffs on a regular basis. Soon, however, the two men form a connection and despite his disinterest in formal studies, Walter becomes the perfect sounding board for Sol’s spiritual questions.
When Sol introduces Rosalie to Walter, their connection is equally undeniable. As Sol pulls away from Walter after an awkward incident in Walter’s attic quarters, Rosalie and Walter only grow closer together. And absorbed in the final months of his studies, Sol is oblivious to the passionate love affair that begins between his fiancee and his friend.
As Sol’s time at the Seminary draws to an end, so does Rosalie and Walter’s relationship. After walking down the aisle, Rosalie follows Sol to his first rabbinical post while Walter moves to Berkeley to begin an academic career. But many years, three kids and several published books later, a chance encounter in Jerusalem reconnects the once inseparable trio. The years in between have not tempered Rosalie and Walter’s feelings for each other, or Sol’s connection with Walter, and their rekindled relationships have long lasting ramifications for all involved.
The Beautiful Possible by Amy Gottlieb is beautifully written and explores the secrets and hidden currents that can run beneath the surface of even the most ordinary-seeming of families. There were no big climaxes or earth-shattering revelations in this novel, but the choices that Rosalie, Sol and Walter made had lasting consequences on their lives and the lives of their family members, and made for a fascinating read. The relationship between Sol and Walter added another layer to the story, intertwining with and often propelling forward the relationship between Walter and Rosalie.
I am not a religious person so I did find the overabundance of Jewish theology and mysticism, and religious metaphors a bit overwhelming at times, but it did not detract from my overall enjoyment of the book.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harper Perennial. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.