4 out of 5 stars
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From an early age, Josh Feldman admired his father, Max, and dreamed of following in his footsteps as a well-respected CEO in the shoe industry. But learning the ropes from his prideful father as they build their family empire is anything but easy. Josh finds himself torn between Max's brutal business mindset and the gentle ways of his own soul. A man must be tough to survive in business, and Josh has learned from the best there is. If he fulfills his dream, will Josh find the satisfaction he desires? Or will he risk becoming like his father, losing the respect of his loved ones, and leaving a trail of betrayal and revenge in his wake?
Discover the outcomes of Josh's decisions in Shelf Life by Martin Sneider. In this gentle-paced family drama, Sneider does an excellent job of using his 50-plus years of experience in the retail industry to bring this saga to life. I enjoyed learning about the ins and outs of the shoe industry and what it took to be successful in the business. This cut-throat industry setting was the perfect backdrop for the Feldman family's ongoing struggles and disagreements throughout the book. Max himself was aggressive and derogatory as the antagonist and made it easy to empathize with the family members he hurt and betrayed. I loved his wife, Maddy, and her father, Gunther, who helped Josh to find his way throughout the novel. I also enjoyed learning about the family's Jewish history as it affected their lifestyle and decisions.
The ending came full circle in a way that fits well with the "long game" Gunther referred to throughout the story. While I don't typically appreciate how revenge stories play out, I was satisfied when Josh learned a valuable lesson. However, I wished that Josh had been more active in the story as he often felt like a bystander observing everything around him. Josh didn't grow much throughout his trials and just went with the flow of events instead of paving his own way into a better future. I was frustrated that he ignored the repeated warnings of his family, then seemed surprised when his father found a way to hurt him as Max had done to the other family members. This lack of development was my least favorite aspect of the novel.
Still, the book was well-edited and only had a few minor errors. Since the book felt a bit slow in places and Josh's character growth seemed somewhat stagnant, I reduced the rating by one star. Therefore, I give Shelf Life four out of five stars.
I recommend this book to readers who enjoy business-centered stories or finance. The book details the stock market and business terminology that might appeal to more finance-minded readers. Still, there is much to enjoy for readers who appreciate family dramas that involve betrayals and revenge. The book contains frequent non-borderline profanities and some derogatory comments. The sexual content is limited to allusions and not described in erotic detail. This book may also strongly appeal to Jewish readers more familiar with the customs and phrases.
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