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Swimming Across the Hudson
Cover of Swimming Across the Hudson
Swimming Across the Hudson
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As a child, Ben Suskind wonders how his family came together. What if he hadn't been adopted by Orhodox Jews? What if his brother, Jonathan, had been adopted by a different couple? Now Ben is thirty years old, living in San Francisco with his girlfriend, Jenny, and her daughter, when he receives a letter from a woman claiming to be his birth mother. He tells his adoptive parents about the letter and they fly him home to New York and reveal a secret about his past, one that turns Ben's whole world upside down.

Without telling anyone, Ben embarks on a journey, risking his relationship with everyone—his girlfriend, his brother, his parents. He combs through the records of his family's past, trying to find the facts about who he and Jonathan really are, and in the process learns the price of lies people tell in the name of truth and good intentions.

Narrated with relentless honest and gentle wit, Swimming Across the Hudson is a moving tale about faith and sexuality, about the communities we're born into and the ones we choose, about the ties that bind us even closer than blood.

As a child, Ben Suskind wonders how his family came together. What if he hadn't been adopted by Orhodox Jews? What if his brother, Jonathan, had been adopted by a different couple? Now Ben is thirty years old, living in San Francisco with his girlfriend, Jenny, and her daughter, when he receives a letter from a woman claiming to be his birth mother. He tells his adoptive parents about the letter and they fly him home to New York and reveal a secret about his past, one that turns Ben's whole world upside down.

Without telling anyone, Ben embarks on a journey, risking his relationship with everyone—his girlfriend, his brother, his parents. He combs through the records of his family's past, trying to find the facts about who he and Jonathan really are, and in the process learns the price of lies people tell in the name of truth and good intentions.

Narrated with relentless honest and gentle wit, Swimming Across the Hudson is a moving tale about faith and sexuality, about the communities we're born into and the ones we choose, about the ties that bind us even closer than blood.

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  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 31, 1997
    The trials of a small Jewish family whose adopted son reacquaints himself with his birth mother provide the background for Henkin's debut. An understated novel of ideas, it poses in accessible form serious questions about the nature of identity--personal, sexual and, above all else, religious. Ben Suskind, 31, a countercultural high-school teacher, and his gay younger brother, Jonathan, who's a doctor, live in the Bay Area. They were both raised in Manhattan by adoptive parents--a stern Jewish professor at Columbia and his more relaxed wife. Dad has long been at pains to see that his boys don't dilute their heritage, an issue that becomes pressing when Susan Green, who's both Ben's plucky young birth mother and a gentile, meets up with Ben and gives his head a spin. Ben, already a little jittery, grows sufficiently absorbed in the history of his biological family to threaten his relationship with his live-in lawyer girlfriend and her daughter, as well as with his brother and his parents. A man stalled, unable to embrace the future until he has resolved the riddle of his past, Ben gradually comes to understand that he can be a legitimate Jew without recourse to the Old Testament. His parents' love has made him a member of the tribe; and religious observance, from kosher cuisine to Sabbath and synagogue, can remain points of refuge and serenity. Henkin has a refreshingly unpretentious style, but this mini-saga lacks punch. Ben's epiphany that "the past year had been nothing but a string of lies... my identity slippery and slithering,"following a strange, 11th-hour cascade of deceptions intended to uncover Jonathan's birth mother, provesonly as poignant as a particularly absorbing episode of TV's The Real World.

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Swimming Across the Hudson
Swimming Across the Hudson
Joshua Henkin
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