David Michael Slater: Selfless
Publisher: Abbey &Co.
The definition of a person who is selfless is one that puts the welfare and interests of others before their own needs and wants. But, how does this fit in with this unique and poignant book about a totally dysfunctional family with members who are so outlandish you begin to wonder how they all managed to live together even for a day. This brings me to my review of David Michael Slater’s book Selfless.
As the story begins we meet Jonathan Schwarz and his three friends who are up to the usual games boys age 12 and 13 play. However, Jonathan’s two sisters are rather unusual and lure both boys up to their rooms for some more adult like fun that is totally inappropriate for them to be engaging in, but nonetheless quite comical in its outcome.
Nadia the older of the two sisters has a fixation with the bizarre, the occult and behaves in a fashion that is bold, outrageous and odd. Olivia the younger sister is into porn and does not hesitate to show off her adult apparel to Jonathan’s two friends.
However, this is just part of the unusual and definitely non-conventional family that this young boy belongs to. His mother Deana is greats ads for an advertising company. Her ads are totally over the top and often offensive to their intended audience. Michael, his father is a writer and has no use for the Judaism, its customs, beliefs or anything affiliated with organized religion. Yet, we learn that he is secretly meeting with an orthodox Rabbi at all hours of the night and has his own private agenda dealing with these issues and more. Add to that two grandparents that survived the Holocaust but are not exactly your typical overprotective and overbearing grandparents, but who have their own quirks, beliefs and odd ways of acting in with family and company, and you have a novel filled with many layers, many themes and different characters who appear to be anything but Selfless.
The author uses a unique technique of writing to draw the reader into the world of this family and their lives. Each character seems self -absorbed in fulfilling their own wants and needs divorced from those of their family members. Most authors use italic print to relate facts that happened in the past bringing the reader the events that occurred before in order to understand the present. But, David Michael Slater uses italic print to let the reader know that the events being read are really happening in the mind of Jonathan and that these thoughts and ideas are what he wished could have happened.
As you learn more about this family an unsettlingly reality comes to light and the lies that were left hidden in their pasts will not come to the forefront and ruin the future but forever change their lives. Deena learns upon the death of her father the harsh reality of the torment her father endured before and after her birth and the truth behind who she really is and is not. Added to that Michael, her husband left to find himself in Israel and possibly convert to become an orthodox Jew even though his beliefs were much farther away. Why this was happening you would have to read to understand the reasoning behind his actions and more.
Getting a SOS to come home while at a party with his friends, Jonathan learns that someone has accused his father of stealing the manuscripts for all of his books and not really being the author. At the beginning of the novel Jonathan finds a picture or as he calls it a doodle and proceeds to make a replica of the drawing. Not thinking that this drawing had anything to do with his father’s writing until much later on when his mother received an anonymous letter in her mailbox claiming that the four books were written by someone else and after destroying her entire family room coming across the exact drawing that related the event that was written in the mysterious letter. The picture was of a wreckage of a boat and linked to an accident related in this letter that changed would change the way he looked at his father forever. But, the secret behind these manuscripts and the truth about wrote them and why will shock you and will not be revealed until you read the last chapter and turn the last page.
Throughout the book the author refers to his illness and seeing his father and thinking that he was visiting him while recovering. Traveling in his mind to many places in search of the truth. The reality of what really happened you will have to learn by reading the book.
All they wanted was to be loved and accepted for who they were. Nadia, with serious problems divorced herself from her family and pretended she did not need them. Olivia wanted to be something she was not. Jonathan just wanted to be accepted and loved and wanted to emulate his father by being a writer. A father who tried to find his true identity in order to be a better father, husband and help others do the same.
Lies and deceptions often come back and smack you right in the face. His grandmother had her own secrets of how she really escaped the gas chambers. A mother who felt she was to blame for not allowing her son to have a religious education. Family and friends thought Jonathan understood the complexities of the world and had the ability to listen and help others solve their problems and not ever complain about his. What are the truths and what really is the fate of all of these characters you will be astounded to find out.
It is about trust, love and four friends that had their ups and downs in school and in their own relationships. It is about Cory, Jake, Milo and Jonathan who are four friends, each with their own family problems and hardships. Finding yourself and who you are does not come easy. But, true friends that are there for you throughout the good time and bad and a family are priceless.
Jonathan spent his life trying to please everyone but himself. His father just wanted to find who he was. His mother sacrificed a lot to be the person he wanted her to be and lost some of who she really was.
There are different degrees of Selflessness. Someone who thinks about the wants and needs of others fits this definition. Read this outstanding, thought provoking and mind-stimulating book and you decide whether all of these characters are in someway Selfless or none.