The Cantor’s Daughter: Stories

By Scott Nadelson

The Cantor’s Daughter is the compelling new collection from Oregon Book Award Winner and recipient of the GLCA’s New Writers Award for 2005, Scott Nadelson. In his follow-up to Saving Stanley, 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 at work, 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 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.

Praise for The Cantor’s Daughter

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.

The Oregonian

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

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.

Willamette Week

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

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–.