A Conversion Story in a Different Key

An adopted Jew finds his home in the Torah.
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The Lord Will Gather Me In: My Journey to Jewish Orthodoxy, by David Klinghoffer, Free Press; 262 pp; $24.

We live in the Golden Age of the memoir, or so we're often told, with reference to Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt's best-selling account of an Irish Catholic childhood; Mary Karr's The Liars' Club; and a host of others. I'm not so sure. Many of the widely touted contemporary autobiographies boil down to titillating confessions—Geraldo for the literati—while others, including most recently I, Rigoberta Menchu, whose author won the Nobel Peace Prize, have been proved to be fraudulent.

Still, because every human life is at once unique and like every other, autobiography—the telling of a life by the only one who can tell it from the inside—offers insights and pleasures that aren't found in any other genre. Indeed, it is this productive tension between the particular and the universal that characterizes autobiography at its best.

And autobiography at its best is what you will find in David Klinghoffer's The Lord Will Gather Me In. Klinghoffer, the literary editor of National Review, was only 33 years old when he completed this book. Isn't that rather presumptuous, to undertake a memoir at an age when many people are still trying to figure out what they are going to do with their lives? It all depends on the life, and on the teller.

Unlike many memoirs of the rich and famous (and their ghostwriters), which offer merely a string of anecdotes, Klinghoffer's book has a plot as intricate and suspenseful and ultimately satisfying as the plot of a good novel. The twists and turns of the tale should be left for the reader to follow as they unfold, rather than laid out cold by a cloddish reviewer, but it is not ...

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