Chapter 10 Summary

Asher spends the summer on Cape Cod with Jacob Kahn and his wife, Tanya. Asher is faithful in his prayers. Jacob says that he has lost the faculty of prayer. Nowadays he talks to God through his sculpture and his painting. Asher says that this is also a form of prayer.

Mrs. Kahn speaks English with a heavy Russian accent. She spends her days on the porch, reading books in Russian and French. Asher will not eat food that is not kosher, so he has a small stove and refrigerator in his room. He wonders how his father managed to stay kosher in all his travels.

Each day after breakfast, Jacob and Asher would set up their easels on the beach and paint. Jacob shows Asher some of the styles of earlier painters. He teaches him that the canvas has limitations as a two-dimensional surface. After lunch, they would swim in the ocean. Asher has learned how to swim with Jacob’s help. He thinks back to his summers in the Berkshires with his mother. They seem like another world.

Asher paints a self-portrait. When he looks at his picture and sees the earlocks he has painted, he tucks them behind his ears. While walking along the streets downtown, Asher and Jacob meet an old friend of Jacob’s, whom Jacob call a “whore” for selling his soul to people rather than to his art. Jacob warns his student not to become a whore, which is something that Asher has no intention of becoming. He also chides Asher for tucking his earlocks behind his ears. Those are part of his identity; if he has no individuality as a person, he is no artist. During a Jewish time of remembrance, Asher goes on a fast. Jacob worries that he is becoming skin and bones. Jacob falls into a strange mood and will not get out of bed. Mrs. Kahn tells Asher that he is remembering his past and will not allow Asher to see him. Several painters come to the house to see Jacob. Anna Schaeffer arrives and asks Asher how his summer is going. She tells him that Jacob is satisfied with his work and asks him to be kind to his teacher; he is filled with memories of unpleasant things from his past.

Asher receives a letter from his mother. It is postmarked Zurich. She is working hard, as is his father. She reminds him not to forget that he is a Jew. After the summer is over, they return to New York.