Michael Lowenthal Critical Essays


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Michael Lowenthal The Same Embrace

Lowenthal is an American short story writer and novelist.

In his first novel, The Same Embrace, Lowenthal focuses on the need to balance individualism with a sense of acceptance from others. The protagonist, Jacob Rosenbaum, is a twenty-five year old gay activist at odds with his identical twin Jonathan, an Orthodox Jew. The brothers, who were close in their youth, have separated over differences in sexuality and religion. The twins' parents beseech Jacob to journey to Israel to convince Jonathan to return home to Boston from the yeshiva where he is studying. Jacob's trip ends in failure when Jonathan finds his twin engaging in a sexual act with a fellow student. Jonathan's eventual return home, precipitated by his grandmother's stroke, brings the conflict between the two brothers to a head. During their grandmother's illness, the family is forced into close proximity, and the brothers learn more of their family's history. One of the revelations involves the story of Uncle Josef, whom the twin's grandfather abandoned in Nazi Germany because Josef was gay. The entire family comes to a reconciliation and while the brothers never grow close, they do achieve a greater acceptance and understanding of one another. Critics praise Lowenthal's skillful use of detail; his believable, moving scenes of family conflict and reconciliation; and his handling of sexual and religious themes.