Twenty years on from when we left Asher Lev we now find him married with two children and living in France. He, and is work, are suffering in the wake of some strongly critical reviews of his latest Paris show. Then he receives news of his uncles death, and he and his family return to Brooklyn.
The story follows Asher's turmoil as he confronts a number of problems on his return from exile: his relationship with his fellow believers, difficulties with his cousins over his uncles will, and more significantly his period of artist's block and the potential prospects for his beloved son, the five year old Avrumel. His turmoil over the last is all the more intense as only he seems able to appreciate the situation, namely that their religious leader the Rebbe is getting old and having no son of his own will need to select a successor, the obvious choice is Asher's Father, but as Asher is obviously unacceptable as his father's successor the role would fall to Avrumel. Here a parallel is drawn with Abraham and Isaac, is Asher prepared to sacrifice his son, he must confront the issue: his art or his son.
This is a beautiful and at times mystic story, Asher often drifts into a dream like state having visions of past, present and possibly future events. The characters are superbly drawn, Avrumel is a delightful young lad; Asher's father seems much more human now; and with Asher we really get inside the mind of an artist. The Rebbe too is a remarkable man, full of wisdom, never laying down the law but giving guidance through reasoning and suggestion.