The Hand Before the Eye
Farbman is a hustling New York lawyer with a shiksa wife and two kids, living beyond his financial and emotional means. Dunned by his creditors and distressed by an undiagnosed malaise of the soul, Farbman embodies the conflict between our altruistic impulse to help others and our selfish desire to elbow our way to the front of the line. The novel begins on Forty-Second Street in New York City. Farbman is on his way to an out-of-town funeral. He is rushing from a meeting with his unforgiving banker, to his chaotic office, to his parents' home, and then to the airport. Running late, Farbman considers canceling the trip, but doesn't. After the funeral, his lust for a fellow mourner leads him to an encounter with a mystic rabbi. The Hand Before the Eye is the often comic story of a contemporary man. With energetic and ironic prose, Donald Friedman take us into Farbman's world of law and medicine. Through Job-like suffering, Farbman gains enlightenment, learns the spiritual lessons of justice and healing. Finally, he understands that the good life offers us two true gifts: meaningful work and the love of another.
"You'll be pleased to compare its farcical humor to Philip Roth's and its beleaguered protagonist to one of Saul Bellow's."
—The Jerusalem Report
"How many times have you interviewed a potential client or witness and mumbled to yourself, "You couldn't write this stuff?" Well, Donald Friedman does. In prose laced with rich vocabulary, the author introduces hilarious character after hilarious character - clients, waitresses, lawyers and judges. Outfitted in equally hilarious situations, legal and otherwise, we truly feel Farbman's pain."
—New York Law Journal
"While "The Hand Before the Eye" might be included in the long list of Jewish novels that explore the harsh realities of domestic warfare (Mr. Bellow's "Herzog," Malamud's "Dubin's Lives," and, well, any number of Philip Roth novels, immediately flash across the mental screen), the considerable strength of this novel resides elsewhere. Mr. Friedman most significantly contributes to the impressive chorus of Jewish artistic voices through imagining an utterly unfamiliar mode of Jewish being in the modern world."
"A successful New Jersey trial attorney for more than 30 years, the author brings humanness to the character of Farbman not seen in other books by more notable attorney-authors such as John Grisham and Scott Turow."
—New Jersey Lawyer
"If Franz Kafka collaborated with Rabelais to produce a novel to entertain Sigmund Freud, they could do no better than Donald Friedman's The Hand Before the Eye. This extraordinary first novel is textured with a diversity of characters trapped in a crucible of relationships no more or less comic than the human condition itself. Cheers for Donald Friedman, who has given us a triumph of wit, ideas, and narrative invention."
—Sidney Offit, President, The Authors Guild
"Friedman has created a wonderful Bellowesque character in Farbman. There's a little of Farbman in all of us, especially in the increasing number of lawyers who are desperate to escape from clients, courts and confrontations. Friedman's novel lays bare the legal system and its frustrations. A great debut novel. I'm already waiting for Farbman II."
—Alan M. Dershowitz, author of Just Revenge
"This extraordinary novel appears to be, in significant situations, akin to a highly contemporary Book of Job. A likable, understandable guy, trapped by awful circumstances, runs into a solid brick wall and there's no way out. However, that's not the ending; it's freshly liberating, fulfilling, and — why not admit it? — glorious. Read it."
—The Reverend Malcolm Boyd, author of Are You Running with Me, Jesus?
"The book is an achingly accurate tale of how law is often practiced in the big city. It is the picture of a legal system that neither helps nor heals — and yet has the capacity to do both. The tale is, however, in its last analysis, one of deliverance and redemption. It is funny and sad, but at all times, compelling and great reading."
—Raoul Lionel Felder, Lawyer
"An utterly absorbing journey from the depths — in this case, the fascinating depths of the legal profession — to a coda wherein Judaism and nature combine to effect a modern day 'second birth'. Skillfully and poetically rendered."
—Rabbi Herbert Weiner, author of 9 1/2 Mystics: The Kabbala Today
"Donald Friedman makes art not for art's sake, but for morality's sake, sending his characters on risky negotiations of both moral laws and worldly compulsions. Through their journey, he investigates the urgencies of love, and he wins our hearts as his characters seek to win one another's."
"The Hand Before the Eye has spirit, energy, and a lot of laughs. A wonderful book."
"I laughed. I cried. But mostly I thought about what Donald Friedman had to say. Perhaps we're returning to a time when interesting people wrote novels. Please read The Hand Before the Eye. It's filled with comic furor and intelligent intensity. It features a character all too many of us can relate to. And most importantly, it suffuses the reader with passion and hope."
—Marissa Piesman, author of Survival Instincts
"Donald Friedman's provocative novel is a timely reminder that it's never too late for atonement and transformation of one's life from the craziness engendered by a bottom line of money and power to an inner tranquility and harmony with nature."
—Michael Lerner, Editor, Tikkun and author of Jewish Renewal
"Donald Friedman has written a charming, entertaining urban fable. He addresses with humor and compassion the malaise of the modern-day working stiff."
—Kaylie Jones, author of A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries
"A scrambling, perpetually desperate debtor, uninspiring father, and dreadful husband, Farbman is the prism through which the readers glean the pervasive anomie and avarice characterizing both domestic and business life... Friedman sympathetically portrays this much-taxed every-guy while running him through a gauntlet of blunders and cruelties toward the beatific blessedness his once-flawed protagonist has earned."
"A heartening story of an individual making a dramatic and successful transformation."
"The spiritual malaise and gradual awakening of a New York attorney, Friedman's story is refreshingly earnest."
"Nicely rounded characters. Crisp dialogue. Thought-provoking."
—Jill R. Hughes, Forward Magazine
"The Hand Before the Eye offers reading pleasure, as well as words to live by, and it should appeal to readers looking for a relevant story about today's world of work."
—Saint Paul Pioneer Press
"It's no easy task, blending outright comedy and profound emotion; Donald Friedman has found the magic formula to make it work. This is an ironic, absorbing, and, finally, uplifting piece of writing."
—Mike Feder, WBAI Radio (author of New York Son)
"That contemporary Jewish males suffer from a wide variety of mid-life crises is hardly a secret. We follow their whining and assorted woes on stage, screen and the printed page. To add anything even remotely resembling an original touch to this long-running formula is no easy trick, but that is precisely what Donald Friedman's debut novel does. What makes [his protagonist] distinctive, is that Farbman takes the spiritual fat around his soul seriously."
—N.J. Jewish News, Sanford Pinsker, Shadek Professor of Humanities, Franklin and Marshall College
Winner of the Mid-List Press First Series Award for the Novel
Vanity Fair Hot Type Selection