Good Heart

Alan New­man

  • Review
By – December 3, 2018

In this pas­sion­ate trib­ute to Israel and to Judeo-Chris­t­ian ideals, Alan New­man weaves togeth­er the life sto­ries of three gen­er­a­tions of a Chris­t­ian and a Jew­ish family.

Dan­ny Baran­son (Borin­s­ki) and Bob­by Lang­ford meet in the 60s in Dawkins, Indi­ana, a small town with a tiny Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion. Danny’s dad has moved the fam­i­ly to take over a den­tal prac­tice. The Lang­ford fam­i­ly, evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians, have lived in Dawkins for gen­er­a­tions. The boys form a close friend­ship, shar­ing hol­i­days, tra­di­tions, teenage antics, and fel­low­ship. The fam­i­lies also share an impor­tant bond: Danny’s grand­fa­ther escaped Vien­na, but many in his fam­i­ly were lost in the Holo­caust. Bobby’s dad, John, was among the Amer­i­can sol­diers who lib­er­at­ed Dachau, and can’t for­get what he saw and felt there; his wartime mem­o­ries lead to the Lang­ford family’s com­mit­ment to Israel. The engross­ing plot fol­lows these fam­i­lies through the major events in their lives, and their diver­gent paths. Yet, their des­tinies even­tu­al­ly lead them all to Israel and to the roots of Zionism.

The alter­nat­ing char­ac­ters’ chap­ters pro­vide suc­cinct, fast-paced plot­lines. The read­er is drawn into the nar­ra­tives of Israelis such as Danny’s wife, Maya, who lost her father in the Yom Kip­pur War, and Orit, an Ethiopi­an whose dif­fi­cult and dan­ger­ous jour­ney and even­tu­al reset­tle­ment is chron­i­cled. The Amer­i­cans’ sto­ries are pre­sent­ed too: Arnie, the fer­vent­ly involved Jew; Yoni, whose Zion­ist roots lead him to the IDF; and Bobby’s daugh­ter and wife, who are involved in evan­gel­i­cal caus­es. Through these var­i­ous char­ac­ters’ lives, New­man cap­tures the essence of every­day, small-town Amer­i­can life; Flori­da retire­ment com­mu­ni­ties; Ethiopi­an deserts; and World War II Europe.

Alan Newman’s involve­ment in many Jew­ish and Israeli orga­ni­za­tions is appar­ent in this knowl­edge­able, well-researched, page-turn­er of a book. Though Good Heart is not sub­tle in its defense of Israel or Chris­t­ian Zion­ists, read­ers will find a sto­ry that high­lights shared hopes, good works through part­ner­ship, and the dif­fer­ence ordi­nary peo­ple can make.

Reni­ta Last is a mem­ber of the Nas­sau Region of Hadassah’s Exec­u­tive Board. She has coor­di­nat­ed the Film Forum Series for the Region and served as Pro­gram­ming and Health Coor­di­na­tors and as a mem­ber of the Advo­ca­cy Committee.

She has vol­un­teered as a docent at the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau Coun­ty teach­ing the all- impor­tant lessons of the Holo­caust and tol­er­ance. A retired teacher of the Gift­ed and Tal­ent­ed, she loves par­tic­i­pat­ing in book clubs and writ­ing projects.

Discussion Questions