We Are Gath­ered: A Novel

  • Review
By – March 29, 2018

On a sun­ny after­noon in Atlanta, Geor­gia, a bride and groom pre­pare for their out­door wed­ding cer­e­mo­ny. The beau­ti­ful bride, Eliz­a­beth Got­tlieb, an alum­na of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Vir­ginia and Emory Uni­ver­si­ty Law School, is descend­ed from sev­er­al gen­er­a­tions of elite Atlanta Jew­ish fam­i­lies. The groom, Hank Jack­son, has few­er con­nec­tions in the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty and does not even open­ly iden­ti­fy as a Jew.

Skill­ful­ly told through mul­ti­ple first-per­son nar­ra­tives, We Are Gath­ered por­trays not only the couple’s sto­ry, but also — or rather, pri­mar­i­ly — the sto­ries of their friends and fam­i­ly. Car­la, the sharp-wit­ted and unusu­al look­ing brides­maid and child­hood friend of Eliz­a­beth, nar­rates the first chap­ter. Her sto­ry, one of a rever­sal of for­tune, arguably gar­ners the most atten­tion in the nov­el. After Car­la, we hear from Mr. Albert Got­tlieb, grand­fa­ther of the bride. His hon­est and author­i­ta­tive voice pow­er­ful­ly dis­rupts, but also nur­tures. Sub­se­quent­ly, we hear from Helen Wolf, whose son suf­fers from ALS. She tells a heart-wrench­ing sto­ry about her love for her son and for her fam­i­ly. Next, we hear from Jack Chan­dler, a non-Jew­ish friend of the Got­tlieb fam­i­ly who first met Josh Got­tlieb, the father of the bride, in col­lege in the 1960s. His sto­ry explains how remain­ing close to the Got­tlieb fam­i­ly for decades has affect­ed his life. After Jack, we hear from Steven Shapiro, a med­ical school dropout and for­mer class­mate of Eliz­a­beth; her wed­ding proves to be a rather emo­tion­al expe­ri­ence for him. Next, Rachel Rosen­blatt, a Holo­caust sur­vivor, tells her sto­ry. Then we hear from Annette, the moth­er of the bride, who explains her own views on love, adult­hood, and the mar­riage of her daughter.

Jamie Weis­man adroit­ly con­structs a com­mu­ni­ty of char­ac­ters, each cre­at­ed with a pri­vate net­work of thoughts and feel­ings, hopes and dreams. While the absence of a time­line in the sto­ry might con­fuse read­ers, Weis­man nev­er­the­less paints a mas­ter­ful por­trait of both sharp and del­i­cate beauty.

Rachael Rose serves as a review­er for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil. She also works as a lan­guage Instruc­tor at the Berlitz Lan­guage Cen­ter in Oden­ton, teach­ing Hebrew. On the side, she also tutors ele­men­tary school math and science.

Discussion Questions