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Snow in August [Mass Market Paperback]

Pete Hamill
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 1 1998
In the year 1947, Michael Devlin, eleven years old and 100 percent American-Irish, is about to forge an extraordinary bond with a refugee of war named Rabbi Judah Hirsch. Standing united against a common enemy, they will summon from ancient sources a power in desperately short supply in modern Brooklyn-a force that's forgotten by most of the world but is known to believers as magic.

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From Amazon

In 1940s Brooklyn, friendship between an 11-year-old Irish Catholic boy and an elderly Jewish rabbi might seem as unlikely as, well, snow in August. But the relationship between young Michael Devlin and Rabbi Judah Hirsch is only one of the many miracles large and small contained in Pete Hamill's novel. Michael finds himself in trouble when he witnesses the 17-year-old leader of the dreaded Falcons gang beating an elderly shopkeeper. For Michael, 1940s Brooklyn is a world still shaped by life in the Old Country, a world where informing on a fellow Irishman is the worst crime imaginable--worse even than the violent crimes committed by some of those fellows. So Michael keeps silent, finding solace in the company of Rabbi Hirsch, a Czech refuge whom he meets by chance. From this serendipitous beginning blossoms a unique friendship--one that proves perilous to both when the Falcons catch up with them.

Interlaced with Hamill's realistic descriptions of violence and fear are scenes of remarkable poignancy: the rabbi's first baseball game, where he sees Jackie Robinson play for the Dodgers; Michael's introduction into the mystical world of the Cabbala and the book's miraculous ending. Hamill is not a lyrical writer, but he is a heartfelt one, and this story of courage in the face of great odds is one of his best. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In Brooklyn in 1947, Michael Devlin, an 11-year-old Irish kid who spends his days reading Captain Marvel and anticipating the arrival of Jackie Robinson, makes the acquaintance of a recently emigrated Orthodox rabbi. In exchange for lessons in English and baseball, Rabbi Hirsch teaches him Yiddish and tells him of Jewish life in old Prague and of the mysteries of the Kabbalah. Anti-Semitism soon rears its head in the form of a gang of young Irish toughs out to rule the neighborhood. As the gang escalates its violence, it seems that only being as miraculously powerful as Captain Marvel?or a golem?could stop them. Strongly evoking time and place, Hamill (Piecework, LJ 12/95), editor of New York's Daily News, serves up a coming-of-age tale with a hearty dose of magical realism mixed in. Recommended for most public libraries.?Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, Andover, Mass.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A transcendent tale of faith and friendship April 20 1999
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
If you have a pulse, you will love this book. Whether you are from Brooklyn, Boston or Bangladesh, you will love this book. Whether you are Jewish, Catholic or Athiest, you will love this book! Pete Hamill does a fabulous job of harkoning us back to a simpler time (Brooklyn, circa 1947) without making us think that it was Utopia. The lead characters, Michael Devlin and Rabbi Hirsch, both are longing for acceptance and companionship. The Rabbi lost his wife in the Holocaust. Michael, the 11-year old protagonist of the story, lost his Father in the Battle of the Bulge. An unlikely meeting leads to a mutually beneficial relationship. The Rabbi fine tunes his English and learns the magical appeal of the game of baseball through the boy's teachings. Michael is equally enriched by falling under the spell of the Rabbi's stories and the Yiddish language. As outsiders, both revel in the exploits of Jackie Robinson, who breaks baseball's color line with his combination of skill and grace. Unfortunately, the duo learns that all is not wonderful and safe in postwar Brooklyn. A gang called the Falcons and their leader, Frankie McCarthy, intervenes with menacing intent. The gang inflicts serious beatings on the Rabbi and the boy and with threats of worse consequences lingering, Michael has to turn to his belief in one of the Rabbi's parables to save the day. It is a beautiful tale of friendship. Both lead characters are extremely likeable. The theme of overcoming all odds is exhilirating. Take the leap of faith and enjoy this wonderful novel.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Snow in August by Pete Hamill June 9 2004
By A Customer
Format:Audio Cassette
The neighborhood in which Hamill is writing about is where I grew up. I was raised around the corner from "the temple, the armory and the factory". I passed by the temple every day on my way to "Catholic school." I can hear a Rabbi blowing the Shofar. I climbed the fence in front of the factory in an attempt to collect my lost Spaldine. The comic books and the New York Yankees were a main stay with local kids. We dreamed of becoming the next Reggie Jackson and Thurmon Munson. We spoke the name Jackie Robinson in hopes that Ebbets Field would come alive again;"Shazam!" We "borrowed" our mother's broomsticks to play stickball.Dreamt of a time when the Dodgers would return home to Brooklyn. We lived a life in which all faiths integrated. Race discriminated amongst our elders. Baseball kept us grounded and occupied. There were local gangs.
The reality of "Snow in August" takes on the coldness of another's heart.This shares a common love of language;baseball or Yiddish-the words combine into a homerun at Ebbetts Field. The snow will melt your heart the same way Jackie Robinson stole the hearts of fellow Brooklynites.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A rollercoaster of ups and downs. March 15 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
"Snow in August" seems divided into three parts (at least to me). They are:
1.) First 100 pages found me wondering where it all was going and whether it was worth my time to find out. These pages are quite slow and seem to be somewhat aimless (with little hints of a coming story line here and there).
2.) The midsection of the book takes these bland pages and 'clicks' them into place, revealing ever-better characters and a nice forward moving tale. This is the rewarding section
3.) The last forty pages were filled with utter confusion about why in the world the author decided to end what was a great 'earthly' story in such an 'unearthly' way. (those that have read it know what I'm talking about). The ending was compoletely unsatisfying and left an ever-promising book (that escalates the whole way) with a sharp decline and a 'flicker' rather than a 'bang' for an ending. It is not that I wanted the book to end differently and was disappointed that it didn't. Rather it is literally like Pete Hamill stopped writing only to have a completely new writer pick it up and write the ending after the manuscript sat in a desk for 6 years. That's how drastic the change is!
All in all, I give it three stars because the characters and scenery are so vivid ('40's New York) and some of the moments so touching (a catholic priest helping a rabbi scrub a spray-painted swastika off his synagogue). I am rarely one who likes over-detailed descriptions of scenery or a character's inner life(don't tell me; show me) but for this book, I gladly made an exceptin as the prose is so well done and the pictures, utterly delightful.
But the last 40 pages - I can't emphasise this enough - were so strange as to be...well...inappropriate-feeling.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Book to Get Lost In Nov. 11 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to get lost in Brooklyn, circa 1947. There is some fantasy involved towards the end that perhaps might not seem plausable at all--however, if you take the whole of the book it just works. Well worth the effort.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Super Read Aug. 2 2003
By Erkle
Format:Mass Market Paperback
An enjoyable and sweet story. There are few storytellers as engaging and talented as Pete Hamill. This book harkens back to an earlier time where people of different backgrounds learned about their neighors' cultures without the forced and sanctimonious multiculturalism we see today. It reminded me of the stories that Colin Powell tells of learning to speak Yiddish in the South Bronx. The book also contains an interesting treatment of Jewish mysticism woven into the narrative. One of the best stories that I have read in awhile.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars cute but tedious
On and on it goes about race, religion and, of course good and evil. Forget this and spend your money on anything by Steinbeck.
Published on Jan. 4 2004 by Hua Foley
3.0 out of 5 stars GREAT book - until the end
I agree with the reviewer above who thought the book was great except for the last 40 pages.
Pete Hamill is a great writer and writes vividly about a young Catholic boy who... Read more
Published on May 30 2003 by Danielle
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical; appealing as both fantasy and coming-of-age drama
It is hard to describe this book. It is beautifully written. Pete Hamill has a terrific narrative style, a strong ear for character and dialogue, and a fertile imagination, all of... Read more
Published on May 6 2003 by Richard E. "Nick" Noble
4.0 out of 5 stars Standing Out
The major theme of the book is about the hardship of standing out. Like snow in august, we must all learn to make our differences affect the lives of others. Read more
Published on April 25 2003 by Geniya O.
5.0 out of 5 stars An Epic
This book, about a boy living a rough life in New York is truly touching. The way the main character met the rabbi was so realistic it's scary. Read more
Published on April 11 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars An intellectual renaissance!
Hamill has combined a fine human-interest story and the re-education of humanity with this book. He has joined with this, different cultures, religions, and races, all in one book,... Read more
Published on Feb. 17 2003 by Mary Ann Prather
5.0 out of 5 stars Will Someone Please Make The Movie? I Want To See The Movie!
Wonderful story, wonderful descriptions of 1940's Brooklyn, and I finished the book thinking of what a wonderful movie it would make - and I am much more a reader than a moviegoer... Read more
Published on Feb. 12 2003 by Bonnie
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful read
I picked up this book and could not put it down. This
is the finest novel I have read in years.
Published on Feb. 11 2003 by Bob Noble
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book
This book was addictive and enriching at the same time (very hard to find in a book). The story of Michael is truly inspiring and quite exciting. Read more
Published on Jan. 22 2003 by Max
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