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Cover of The Cantor’s Daughter

Scott Nadelson

The Cantor’s Daughter

  • fiction / stories
  • ISBN 0-9766311-2-1

These stories capture Jewish New Jersey suburbanites in moments of crucial transition, when they have the opportunity to connect with those closest to them or forever miss their chance for true intimacy. In “The Headhunter,” two men develop an unlikely friendship when Len Siegel, a recruiter, places Howard Rifkin in his ideal job operating a research lab in a pharmaceutical firm’s newly formed diabetes department. Len and Howard buy houses on the same street, but after twenty years of mutually supporting each other’s families and careers their friendship comes to an abrupt and surprising end. In the title story, Noa Nechemia and her father have immigrated from Israel to Chatwin, New Jersey, following a tragic car accident her mother did not survive. In one stunning moment of insight following a disastrous prom night, Noa discovers her ability to transcend grief and determine the direction of her own life. And in “Half a Day in Halifax” Beth and Roger meet on a cruise ship where their shared lack of enthusiasm for their trip sparks the possibility of romance. Nadelson’s stories are sympathetic, heartbreaking, and funny as they investigate the characters’ fragile emotional bonds and the fears that often cause those bonds to falter or fail.


2007 Goldberg Prize for Jewish Fiction by Emerging Writers

Foundation for Jewish Culture

2006 Finalist

Oregon Book Awards

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Praise for The Cantor’s Daughter

My first choice [for the Goldberg Prize] is The Cantor’s Daughter, which I found moving and original without being clearly derivative from any specific style.

Daphne Merkin
Goldberg Prize panelist, essayist, and cultural critic

These stories are rich, involving, and multi-layered. They draw you in gradually, so that you become immersed in these characters and their lives almost without realizing it. An enticing collection.

Diana Abu-Jaber
Author of The Language of Baklava and Crescent

The stories in Scott Nadelson’s The Cantor’s Daughter – set mostly in suburban New Jersey among Jewish families – seethe with psychological insight. Nadelson brings a wry and loving eye to the complexity of all relationships and to human failure, in particular to the all-too-common failure to communicate. His characters make fragile accommodations in order to continue living in less-than-optimal circumstances, and he has a striking knack for identifying the perfect, odd, specific, often body-centered detail that he then renders with such startling precision that it recasts an entire scene.

Cai Emmons
Author of His Mother's Son

Nadelson, a tireless investigator of the missed opportunity, works in clear prose that possesses a tremolo just below the surface. His narratives about contemporary American Jews are absorbing and satisfying, laying bare all manner of human imperfections and sweet, sad compensatory behaviors.

Stacey Levine
Author of My Horse and Other Stories and Dra--.

Nadelson is a gifted storyteller whose award-winning 2004 debut, Saving Stanley: The Brickman Stories, mined similar terrain. He is adept at peeling away the superfluous layers and getting down to the unpleasant intricacies that are a part of our everyday relationships, be they parental, familial, marital, fraternal, or casual ... These beautifully crafted stories are populated by Jewish suburbanites living in New Jersey, but ethnicity doesn’t play too large a role here. Rather, it is the humanity of the characters and our empathy for them that binds us to their plights.

The Austin Chronicle

Nadelson … concerns himself with the everyday motions of living: going on vacation, a rehearsal dinner for a wedding, working and earning a living. Nadelson is particularly adept at allowing his characters, often family members, to reveal themselves as human beings complete with significant flaws ... This is a thoughtful collection, compassionate yet unsparing in its observations. “Only connect,” reads the oft-quoted passage from E.M. Forster’s Howards End. If only the characters in these stories could.

The Oregonian

Authentic ... careful stories about suburban New Jersey Jews turn on the inescapable mix of love and destruction ... Nadelson bears unflinching witness to his characters’ darkness.

Publishers Weekly

Nadelson tells his stories in unpretentious prose in which the writer is mostly invisible, a quality he has further refined in this second collection. It is a voice unmodulated by ego and infused with an intimacy that makes it seem almost as if the stories were being read to us alone in a quiet room.

Jewish Review

Nadelson’s prose is sturdy but not flashy, almost workmanlike. As a mason lays bricks, he stacks one sentence upon another until slowly, a story emerges.

The Portland Mercury

In stories darkly comic and tragic at times, Nadelson’s carefully crafted prose makes his characters’ emotional shortcomings accessible to readers. Nadelson’s best trick is slipping complex emotions and startling revelations between smooth and steady sentences, as a mother mixes in peas with the mashed potatoes so her child will eat his vegetables unwittingly. It is easy to become so invested in his characters’ lives that it no longer matters how they became damaged; Nadelson’s so engaging that the why is almost irrelevant. But the same thing that makes The Cantor’s Daughter compelling – the hope that these characters will be able to put aside their problems and accept love – also makes it disappointing when a happy ending is so rare. What emerges from these complex characters is the unsettling feeling that unhealthy and painful relationships are not limited to New Jersey Jews. Those entanglements are an unfortunate fact of daily life that, according to Nadelson, force us to examine why we’ve become so reluctant to care about the people who care about us.

Willamette Week

A not-yet well-known award-winning author returns with a strong literary work of fiction, a quiet book that has much potential.

The Jewish Week

Nadelson writes well and his characters are convincingly real.

The Reporter

Nadelson’s largest asset is his ability to write crystal-clear, eminently readable sentences. He has staked an imaginative claim on the suburbs of the Garden State and the quietly sad Jews who live there. He plays this poignant tune with grace and large reservoirs of heart.

New Jersey Jewish News