David and Jonathan by Cynthia Voigt

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David and Jonathan Summary

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

David and Jonathan is a dense, complex novel that deals with multiple issues: the Holocaust, anti-Semitism, war, guilt, family life, friendship, coming of age, and sexual, cultural, and racial identity. Henry Marr and Jonathan Nafiche, intelligent sixteen-year-olds, have been friends since fifth grade in spite of their different backgrounds. Henry is from a staid New England family whose maternal ancestors arrived in America on the Mayflower. His mother is a teacher, and his father is a financially unsuccessful musical composer. The family is somewhat estranged from the Chapin grandmother who is wealthy but who does not approve of Henry's father. The Marr family is reserved and stoic, and Henry turns to Jonathan and the Nafiche family for most of his nurturing.

Jonathan is Jewish, and his is an extended family formed from the political turmoil of the 1930s. His mother, then a widow with two small children, married his father, a widower with three children of his own, by proxy, she in Germany, he in Yonkers, New York. Mr. Nafiche's citizenship enabled Myra Rosen Nafiche to leave Germany before the borders were closed to Jewish citizens wishing to emigrate. Living with the Nafiche family is Mr. Nafiche's father-in-law, the father of his first wife, who is known by all as the Rabbi. The Nafiche family is warm, generous, and loving, but it is a disturbed family, one marked by the horrors of the Holocaust and its aftermath.

Henry and Jonathan's close friendship is disrupted by the arrival at the Nafiche home of David Steintodt, Mrs. Nafiche's twenty-year-old nephew. David is a survivor of the Holocaust, the only one of Mrs. Nafiche's family to escape, and in spite of treatment for several years in a psychiatric center, he is suicidal. For this reason, the family maintains a close watch over David, and Jonathan begins spending most of his time with him, leaving Henry alone and lonely.

Henry is at first angered and hurt by being excluded from David and Jonathan's companionship, but he comes...

(The entire section is 505 words.)