Davita's Harp

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Davita's Harp is a novel by Chaim Potok, published in 1985. It is the only one of Potok's novels to feature a female protagonist.

Plot summary

In New York City of the 1930s, Ilana Davita Chandal is the child of a mixed marriage: a Polish Jewish immigrant mother and a Christian father from an old and wealthy New England family. Both of her parents are haunted by bitter and violent memories from their youths, and both have, in consequence, turned their backs on their pasts in order to become active members of the Communist Party. Ilana's early childhood is fraught with mystery and struggle as the neighbors eye the Chandal family with suspicion. When Michael Chandal, already wounded once in the Spanish Civil War, returns to Spain, Ilana begins to look for answers at the local synagogue and in friendship with observant Jews, including her neighbor Ruthie Helfman and her distant cousin, David Dinn. Michael Chandal is killed in Spain, at Guernica, and Ilana and her mother both struggle to cope with their grief. They are often at odds with each other as Ilana becomes more and more interested in traditional Judaism—even asserting her right to say kaddish for her non-Jewish father—while Anne Chandal devotes herself to the Party and becomes involved in a new relationship with a young Communist historian, Charles Carter. When Stalin signs a non-aggression pact with Hitler, Anne struggles with reconciling the communist cause with the geopolitical reality and leaves the...
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