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The Book of Norman, a humorous family drama, chronicles the life of Norman Gould, a rabbinical school dropout whose brother, Jon, has recently become interested in converting to Mormonism.

In this novel, set in LA during the 1967 anti–Vietnam War protests, two brothers compete for their dead father’s soul in a comedic tale of sibling rivalry, angelic messengers, and the serious business of who runs the afterlife.

"I can't think of many novels that, while not taking themselves too seriously, manage to be intelligent and sympathetic to not one but two oft-misunderstood American religions. That is, there may be books that get Judaism right, or books, thought I doubt it, that get Mormons right, but to get them both right? Quite a feat." Mark Oppenheimer, religion columnist, the New Your Times and author of 'Knocking on Heaven's Door: American Religion in the Age of Counterculture'


The Book of Norman is a first in contemporary Jewish literature, probing with humor and seriousness Mormon-Jewish relationships and traditions regarding the treatment of the dead. It is 1967. Draft cards are being burned, and two Earth Angels in the form of fabulous, spiritual creatures with perfect tans have come to work at the camp where Norman and Jon Gould are employed as reluctant counselors. After dropping out of a Jewish seminary in New York, all Norman wants to do is catch up on sex, love, and rock ’n’ roll, while consuming as many treyf (non-kosher) cheeseburgers as he can. Yet when his doper brother, Jon, gets a buzz cut, sells his stash, and becomes a Mormon-in-training, the battle between them is engaged. It gets serious when Jon insists on baptizing their dead father, a Mormon practice that Jews--even one cheeseburger-addled rabbinical school dropout--deplore as a violation of Jewish teachings on the afterlife. As Jon becomes an expert on the vast architecture of Mormon heavenly realms where their dad’s soul could be waiting for him, Norman grows lost and confused, then outraged. Just when he is about to give up the soul battle, the Jewish angels assert themselves. A religious tug-of-war ensues, as Norman tries to pull his brother back to Judaism while Jon tries to prove to Norman that Mormonism is the way. The conflict over their father’s soul culminates in a monumental and hilarious game of basketball, pitting Norman and the angels against a Mormon team headed by Western Oaks (Wes, the Elder) and his compatriots. With the angels’ help, Norman becomes a reluctant, somewhat ridiculous, yet dauntless defender of the faith.


Allan Appel, born in Chicago and raised in Los Angeles, is a prize-winning novelist and playwright whose books include Club Revelation; High Holiday Sutra, winner of a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Award; and The Rabbi of Casino Boulevard, a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. His work has appeared in the National Jewish Monthly, the Progressive, National Lampoon, and Tablet, and his plays have been produced in New York, Chicago, New Haven, and Provincetown. The Excommunication of Mrs. Eaton, about Puritan theocracy in early New Haven, won the Connecticut Heritage Productions full-length play award in 2011. He has published 14 books, including eight novels. His most recent novel, The Hebrew Tutor of Bel Air (Coffee House Press, 2010) is being optioned for television. The winner of two fellowships in fiction from the Connecticut State Office of Arts and Tourism, Appel lives in New Haven, where for the last decade he has been a staff writer for the online New Haven Independent.

Paper with Flaps ISBN: 9781942134312 344 Pages $19.95

E-Book ISBN: 9781942134329 344 Pages $12.99

Robert Mandel, Publisher

Mandel Vilar Press

19 Oxford Court,

Simsbury, Connecticut 06070

robert@mandelvilar.org; 806-790- 4731