The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green

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Published by: Algonquin Books
Release Date: 09/10/04
Pages: 256
ISBN13: 978-1565124202


A 70’s era tale of two brothers, three years apart, who need each as their dysfunctional family life leaves them wondering whom to truly trust. Their father, a raging egomaniac, demands they study Hebrew until their world starts to wobble through a nasty divorce. The boys end up in secular public school, lost to the expected rhythm of two vulnerable Yeshiva boys.


“A funny, heart-twisting story … [Braff writes] with wry humor, assured prose and a keen sensitivity to the emotional minefields of familial relationships … Braff deftly captures the monumental and the miniscule moments of everyday life.”
USA Today

An “elegiac tale … Brisk, readable prose.”
Entertainment Weekly

“The eponymous Green narrates his early adolescence … It’s familiar territory, but Braff’s direct, deprecating prose makes it seem new; wry and poignant, but without the sense that Braff is trying to hard at either … Braff’s dialogue and his eye for detail are crisp and natural … Heartbreaking and hilarious.”

“Hilarious and achingly sad in its depiction of a teenage boy’s troubled family.”
The Oakland Tribune

“‘You’ll laugh, you’ll cry.’ It’s a cliché that fits Joshua Braff’s very uncliched first novel … Engaging.”
News & Observer

“A strong poignant page-turner … A wonderful novel to have on your shelf.”
San Antonio Express-News

“What teenage boy hasn’t felt he was being held hostage by his own prurient thoughts? … Joshua Braff’s novel reveals such mental wanderlust with humor, asking profound questions that even middle-aged men with vague memories of adolescence will recognize.”
Dallas Morning News

“Jacob Green has a lot of “unthinkable thoughts” — and Braff’s great ear and lively voice communicate them with plenty of laughs and poignancy.”
Hartford Courant

“An entertaining picture of a decade, an age and a place in the world.”

“Quirky, funny, and poignant.”
The Jewish Week

“Some might call The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green a coming-of-age tale, a comic novel or a riveting family drama. They would not be incorrect, but ‘hilarious horror story’ is more like it.”
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

“Loud, funny, bittersweet … It will resonate with most any reader who’s ever fantasized about escaping from his own flawed family … Braff’s pacing is so sure-handed, his dialogue so dead-on authentic.”
Creative Loafing

A “self-assured, comic, yet piercing first novel.”
Jewish Book World

Braff “pulls no punches with his fly-on-wall storytelling and scenarios equally painful and hysterical.”
Philadelphia City Paper


An “unthinkably good read. It’s the novel that readers would search high and low for but are rarely lucky enough to find.”
Contra Costa Times

A “scarifyingly funny debut … Painfully honest and surprisingly compassionate … Compulsively readable.”

A “rich, moving, and very funny first novel.”

“The novel’s pathos and characters develop as the tension increases, transforming it from a commonplace coming-of-age tale into a believable depiction of family strife that transcends religion. Recommended.”
Library Journal

“There are about three dozen reasons to read The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green, because it’s funny and sharp and wise and sad and everything else a good book is supposed to be. But the best reason to read it, I think, is that at the heart of this book this is exactly what you find: a heart. A great big one at that.”
Daniel Wallace, author of Big Fish

“Joshua Braff’s witty and energetic debut novel deftly explores the anxieties of growing up in a troubled but by no means atypical suburban Jewish family. And, in the hilarious and disturbing figure of patriarch Abram Green, Braff has created a wholly original character –a man whose pathological need for love borders on cruelty. With its memorable supporting cast, its irreverent take on Jewish themes, and its flair for the theatrical, Braff’s novel recalls the work of such writers as Israel Horovitz, Herb Gardner, and Brighton Beach Memoirs – era Neil Simon.”
Adam Langer, author of Crossing California

“I read it compulsively, rooting every step of the way for its flawed and fractious characters.”
Wally Lamb, author of She’s Come Undone

I wrote The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green at a time when my first and only unpublished novel was still stirring me at night. I decided to give up on it one day and it was freeing and exciting to open a blank slate. I remember setting out with a patchwork of ideas, like a quote as a chapter, a list of rules, thank you notes, all devices for humor and pathos from this little boy’s brain. The quick pace, ping-pong dialogue and rule-breaking from traditional narrative structure was inspired by the novel, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. When I finished his book I ran to the computer to “riff” just as he seemingly let himself do.