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[160] The Same Embrace – Micahel Lowenthal

The Same Embrace tells the story of identical twins, Jacob and Jonathan, who once shared an unbreakable bond and synchronized their breathing, had gone separate ways divided by religious faith, desire, and sexual identity. Jonathan has taken up Orthodox Judaism, settled in a yeshiva in Jerusalem, and scrupulously observed all religious creeds. Halfway around the world at home, Jacob, also at the age of 24, is a gay activist in Boston who has just mourned the death of his partner and assumes little hope for a heartwarming reconciliation with his estranged brother.

Jacob has always blamed the church and its invidious indoctrination for his brother’s isolation from family. The novel begins with Jacob’s mission to convince Jonathan returning home from Israel, at least for a visit. The trip, as promising as it initially seems to be, with both brothers being unusually polite to each other, meets a disastrous conclusion as Jacob’s inappropriate (borderline lewd) behavior with Jonathan’s study partner sends him packing homeward. What has attempted to break the ice between the brothers causes a breach that teeters on the edge of hatred.

The narrative alternates between the present and Jacob’s childhood memories. Entwined with family anecdotes and Jewish traditions are Jacob’s own reflections of his coming out to his family. Lowenthal writes about Jacob’s indecipherable fear and insecurity of his sexual identity as well as his guilt of his self-censorship with an insurmountable adroitness. The novel sets against the backdrop of a time that is struck by the convergence of so many momentous happenings: the initiative campaign, the Bush/Clinton/Perot presidential debate, the Columbus quincentenary (1992) and the launch of AIDS quilt display. In the heat of a politics-dabbled milieu, Jacob contrives to rebounce from anger and alienation toward reconciliation and acceptance. An unexpected arrival of an unheard-of relative during a family mourning spurs him onto love and hope in reconciling with his twin brother and rekindles a hopeful future.

The Same Embrace captures the essence of a young gay man’s inner struggle: a prickling dilemma of wanting to tell the truth but lacking the courage. Jacob finds himself caught in the hypocrisy that his relationship with his family is superficial and even fake because people are not seeing the real him. The novel evokes the love the that allows families to embrace the difference of one another.

4 Responses

  1. I’ve not heard of this novel, but it sounds wonderful. I’m adding this to my wish list. I’m most especially interested in how Jacob comes to terms with his family’s faith and the man that he is. Great review!

  2. Sounds like a fascinating, moving read. I think I heard about it awhile ago but I may need to put it back on my wish list. 🙂 Was there a movie made?

  3. Literate Housewife:
    The book is not very well known but the premise is very intriguing. I came across this one when I was searching for other books in the same subjects.

  4. Marie:
    I don’t think it will be long until it’s made into a movie. 🙂

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