I Am the Clay

I Am the Clay

A Novel

by Chaim Potok
Hardcover, 211 pages
Current Retail Price: $20.00
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During the last retreat, when the Chinese and the army of the North swept down into the South, an old man and his wife fled from their village in the hills and embarked upon a panicky trek along the main road to Seoul and at one point scrambled with other refugees into a roadside ditch to avoid an approaching column of American tanks and jeeps. There they came upon the boy.

With these opening words, Chaim Potok departs from the world of Jewish family life the territory he has made his own in such greatly loved novels as The Chosen and My Name Is Asher Lev—and turns to a dramatically different culture in a novel about three people brought together by chance in the midst of the horror of the Korean War.

The boy in the ditch is unconscious, close to death. The old woman, stirred by memories of her own child who died at birth, refuses to leave him behind in their flight through the bleak bombed-out landscape, and as she nurses him, a fierce animal tenderness is reawakened in her. The old man thinks his wife has lost her mind to put their lives at risk for a stranger, "this stone around our necks." Gripped by rage and jealousy, he waits for the boy to die. But when he does not die, the old man begins to think that the boy has some magic in him upon which their very survival depends.

What happens to this odd family, bound together by reluctant kinship and absolute need, is the heart of a spare, haunting, powerfully moving novel about the unexpected flowering of love in a war-blighted world.

Chaim Potok was born and raised in New York City. He began to write fiction at the age of sixteen, graduated from Yeshiva University with a B.A. summa cum laude in English literature, and earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania. He is an ordained rabbi and served as an army chaplain in Korea for sixteen months, with a front-line medical battalion and an engineer combat battalion. He is the author of seven previous novels and of Wanderings: Chaim Potok's History of the Jews. His first novel, The Chosen, was nominated for a National Book Award and received the Edward Lewis Wallant Award. Another of his novels, The Promise, was given the Athenaeum Prize, and The Gift of Asher Lev, his most recent work of fiction, won the National Jewish Book Award. He and his wife have three children and live in Pennsylvania.

from the dust jacket

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