Last Word

Jonathan Blum
  • Review
By – November 14, 2014

Jonathan Blum’s novel­la, Last Word, is a humor­ous yet seri­ous sto­ry about a Jew­ish par­ent strug­gling to con­nect with and under­stand his teenage son, who is obsessed with com­put­ers. The admin­is­tra­tion at Eric’s Jew­ish day school ends up blam­ing him for sev­er­al com­put­er-hack­ing inci­dents, which result in many unpleas­ant meet­ings involv­ing the school’s staff, par­ents of the com­mu­ni­ty, and Eric’s fam­i­ly. Some­times the truth of the sit­u­a­tion is dif­fi­cult to deter­mine because Eric rarely asserts his own claims. The read­er is often unable to decode Eric’s thoughts; he tends to mum­ble, use short phras­es, and let oth­er peo­ple talk for him. 

Eric’s father is some­what igno­rant of his son’s activ­i­ties despite efforts to check on his son, caus­ing the read­er to think about how well par­ents can real­ly know their chil­dren. Blum writes from Eric’s father’s per­spec­tive in a casu­al, con­ver­sa­tion­al tone that is mim­ic­ked in the rela­tion­ship between Eric and his father. Eric’s father some­times tries too hard to be a joke­ster and to be liked by his son to notice when Eric real­ly needs his father to be a good par­ent who will lis­ten and offer practi­cal advice. Eric’s father has good inten­tions though, and the read­er begins to under­stand his point of view, even at times when his deci­sions seem flawed, which cre­ates com­plex­i­ty and empa­thy for his character. 

While the book focus­es on the par­ent­ing of Eric and the unfor­tu­nate sit­u­a­tions he has found him­self in at his school, Blum also pro­vides an insider’s per­spec­tive of a tight-knit, some­what inva­sive Jew­ish day school com­mu­ni­ty where every­one cares about Jew­ish edu­ca­tion and every­one is also in every­one else’s busi­ness. Last Word makes the read­er real­ly think about who is inno­cent and how one event leads to anoth­er. Despite this book’s brevi­ty, Blum is able to cre­ate a mul­ti-dimen­sion­al fam­i­ly and com­mu­ni­ty that come to life on the page. This book focus­es on an emo­tion­al­ly charged and com­plex sit­u­a­tion high­ly rel­e­vant to twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry dig­i­tal con­cerns, teenage bul­ly­ing, and the parent­ing skills need­ed to help teens nav­i­gate this con­fus­ing time.

Relat­ed content:

Jamie Wendt is the author of the poet­ry col­lec­tion Fruit of the Earth (Main Street Rag, 2018), which won the 2019 Nation­al Fed­er­a­tion of Press Women Book Award in Poet­ry. Her man­u­script, Laugh­ing in Yid­dish, was a final­ist for the 2022 Philip Levine Prize in Poet­ry. Her poems and essays have been pub­lished in var­i­ous lit­er­ary jour­nals and antholo­gies, includ­ing Fem­i­nine Ris­ingGreen Moun­tains Review, Lilith, Jet Fuel Review, the For­ward, Poet­i­ca Mag­a­zine, and oth­ers. She con­tributes book reviews to Jew­ish Book Coun­cil as well as to oth­er pub­li­ca­tions, includ­ing Lit­er­ary Mama and Mom Egg Review. She has received an Hon­or­able Men­tion Push­cart Prize and was nom­i­nat­ed for Best Spir­i­tu­al Lit­er­a­ture. She holds an MFA in Cre­ative Writ­ing from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Nebras­ka Oma­ha. She is a mid­dle school Human­i­ties teacher and lives in Chica­go with her hus­band and two kids. 

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