THE UNTHINKABLE THOUGHTS OF JACOB GREEN

Joshua Braff

Jacob Green doesn’t mean to disappoint his father, but he can’t help thinking the most unthinkable (and very funny) thoughts about public-school humiliation, Hebrew-school disinclination, and in-home sex education (with the live-in nanny!). If only his mother hadn’t started col­lege at thirty-six (and fallen for her psychology professor). If only he were more like his rebellious older brother (suspended from Hebrew school for drawing the rabbi in a threesome with a lobster and a pig). If only Jacob could confront his overbearing father and tell him he doesn’t want to sing in synagogue, attend est classes, write the perfect thank-you note,

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Jacob Green doesn’t mean to disappoint his father, but he can’t help thinking the most unthinkable (and very funny) thoughts about public-school humiliation, Hebrew-school disinclination, and in-home sex education (with the live-in nanny!). If only his mother hadn’t started col­lege at thirty-six (and fallen for her psychology professor). If only he were more like his rebellious older brother (suspended from Hebrew school for drawing the rabbi in a threesome with a lobster and a pig). If only Jacob could confront his overbearing father and tell him he doesn’t want to sing in synagogue, attend est classes, write the perfect thank-you note, or even live in the same house with Abram Green. But, of course, he can’t. That would be unthinkable.

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  • Plume Books
  • Paperback
  • 2005
  • 272 Pages
  • 9781565124202

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$14.00

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About Joshua Braff

Joshua Braff has an MFA in creative writing. He grew up in New Jersey and now lives with his wife and children in Oakland, California.

Praise

“A funny, heart-twisting story. . . . Braff deftly captures the monumental and miniscule moments of everyday life.” —USA Today

Discussion Questions

In the book’s first chapter, “Housewarming,” the reader is introduced to the Green family (as are the Greens’ party guests) and witnesses first­hand the awkward, tense, and sometimes inauthentic dynamic that exists between Abram Green and the members of his family. What was your initial reaction to Mr. Green’s over-the-top display—or “Introduc-tion”—of his sons, daughter, and wife? How does this first impression compare with your impression of him at the novel’s conclusion? How does he develop—or avoid development—as a character/person?

In the chapter “Going Public,” Jacob’s learning disability is revealed not only to the reader, but also to Jacob himself. Discuss the significance of this discovery to Jacob, and how it affects his self-perception. Also dis­cuss Abram Green’s inability to reconcile Jacob’s failures in school with his ability to read Hebrew, and the ways in which this affects his son.

Is Abram Green a sympathetic or likeable character in any way? Com­pare his obsessive, tyrannical hold over his family with the moments when he seems on the brink of begging for their approval and devotion.

Consider the “unthinkable thoughts” of Jacob Green, and how they affect the tone and pace of the book. Are they really as “unthinkable,” or shocking, as he deems them to be? How do they work within the structure of the book—how do they interrupt, or help, the pace of the novel? Discuss the merit of the moments when his unthinkable thoughts are used to a humorous effect (i.e., in “The Sabbath”) and the moments when they are used to convey more serious and poignant information (his mother’s speech at the end of “Curtain”).

Discuss Jacob’s refusal to admit to his father’s volatile and violent tem­per when Megan asks about it. Did Abram’s behavior border on physi­cal and emotional abuse? Was Megan right to refrain from contacting the authorities? Discuss the ways in which Jacob’s accident was a direct or indirect consequence of the fight.

At the end of the novel, Jacob dresses for synagogue and then takes off running down the street. For the first time, the reader is outside of his unthinkable thoughts, and left wondering, like the bystanders he describes: “Where the hell is that kid going so fast? Where the hell is that kid going? ”  Evaluate the ending of the novel? Why is it important that we not know, where he’s going?  Where do you images he is going?