A minyan of Jewish stories

Minyan: Ten Interwoven Stories by John J. Clayton; © 2016 Paragon House; ISBN 9781557-789204; 262 pages; $17.95

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO – Author John J. Clayton is a masterful story teller, whose universal plots are enriched by his familiarity with the Jewish idiom.  Whether he is writing about children acting out in protest of their parents’ misdeeds; a May-December romance; jumping to wrong conclusions; learning from the elderly; or financial and marital betrayals, his writing is clear and absorbing.

The collection of short stories is called Minyan for at least two reasons; first, there are 10 stories in the collection, and second, most of the main characters have some connection, however tenuous, to the morning prayer group at a Boston congregation.

While I think it is a stretch to say that these stories are “interwoven,” as the book’s subtitle proclaims, that doesn’t detract in the least from enjoying the stories, one by one.  While seeing some of the names – such as that of prayer leader Sam Schulman — repeated in various stories gives readers a sense of continuity, each of the stories stands on its own.  You don’t have to know about Sam Schulman’s tsuris nor about his happiness, to fully enjoy later stories in the volume.

Titles of the stories are: “Minyan;” “Children of Peace;” “O’Malley Recites the Kaddish;” “The Grandparent Option,” “A Question of Heart,” “The Gift,” “Cleaning Up a Mess;” “Whispers from a Distant Room;” “The Embezzler and the Rabbi,” and “Forgiveness.”

I sincerely enjoyed nine of these stories.  One didn’t reach me.  I recommend this book to you.  See how many of the stories you really enjoy!

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Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World.  He may be contacted via [email protected]

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