Erica S. Perl

All Three Stooges

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All Three Stooges Summary

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Erica S. Perl’s novel for middle-grade readers, All Three Stooges (2018), tells the story of best friends Noah and Dash, who are preparing for their bar mitzvahs when tragedy strikes, driving an unexpected wedge between them. The novel deals with issues of identity, friendship, grief, and the effects of suicide on those left behind.

Noah Cohen is a seventh grader lovingly raised by his two mothers, frustrated by his sister, Enid, and deeply devoted to his pal, Dash, with whom he shares an abiding love of comedy. Both he and Dash are getting ready to have their bar mitzvahs, and as part of this seminal coming-of-age event, they must do a research project in which they essentially become experts in a specific aspect of Jewish life, culture, or history. For this important project, Noah and Dash are teamed with their Hebrew school classmate Noa Cohen, whose bat mitzvah is scheduled for the same day as Noah’s. Noah and Noa do not get along because Noa is homophobic, and Noah is proud of his two moms, Jenny and Karen. Despite their disagreements, the trio works together, coming up with a perfect topic for their mitzvah project: Jewish comedians.

Sleepovers at Dash’s house are one of the great joys in Noah’s life. Dash’s dad, Gil, loves comedy almost as much as the boys do. According to Noah, Gil is “the coolest guy on the planet.” He introduces the boys to various comic movies and performers, he constantly cracks jokes with them, and he is more than willing to indulge them with junk food—all of which make for a very different home environment from the one Noah is used to.

Over the years, Noah and Dash have come up with their own comedy routines and inside jokes. They have perfected these bits to such a degree that the two almost have their own lingo. Their humor ranges from traditional setups and punch lines to more screwball-type comedy. Nevertheless, as Noah says, “If Gil didn’t outgrow that stuff, why should we?”

Noah and Dash have a sleepover scheduled when Noah receives a cryptic text. Dash says that he can’t do the sleepover, and Noah asks why. “My dad needs me here,” he texts back. And then…silence. Later, Noah’s moms sit him down to break the startling news: Gil has died. At first, Noah thinks it is a lie, a sick joke Dash has made up as an excuse for missing the sleepover. However, Jenny and Karen assure him that something has happened to Gil. Noah, not wanting to believe the news, insists that everything is fine; he tries to go over to Dash’s house to get to the bottom of what’s going on, but Jenny wraps her arms around him to stop him. Noah struggles at first, then breaks down in tears. Swallowed by grief, he loses track of time; the next thing he knows, he is in bed, and his moms are keeping vigil at his side. As he lays there, Noah thinks about Dash, whom he guesses is probably doing the exact same thing: lying in bed, attempting to sleep, and consumed with what happened, trying to make sense of it all.

A few days later, Noah, Jenny, and Karen attend Gil’s funeral. It is the first funeral Noah has ever attended, his only point of reference being the funerals he has seen in various comedy movies. After the service, he sees Dash for the first time since Gil’s death. They have an awkward meeting, and Noah feels as if an invisible wall has been put up between him and his friend. He senses the two of them drifting apart, each left alone to come to terms with what happened to Gil.

Noah finds Dash’s missing cellphone. In a desperate attempt to feel close to his friend, he breaks into the phone and begins answering texts Dash has received. Enid eventually finds out and confronts Noah, telling him how inappropriate it is to violate someone’s privacy like that. During this exchange, Enid informs him that Gil committed suicide by shooting himself. Noah is baffled by the revelation; to him, Gil was the picture of joy and humor. As he grapples with this shattering new truth, his mothers learn of his violation of Dash’s privacy, and they postpone his bar mitzvah. The incident creates an even bigger rift between Noah and Dash, and Dash completely stops speaking to Noah.

Over the ensuing days, Noah works through both his grief and the consequences of his actions. Jenny and Karen, Enid, and their rabbi all try to help to provide some clarity and direction. When he finds a video clip of a movie Gil once introduced him to, he realizes how much he misses Dash. However, from reading Dash’s texts, he knows that Dash has been confiding in their classmate Chris, so Noah is hesitant to reach out to his friend.

Through an unlikely source, Noah and Dash reconnect and rebuild their friendship: Noa. At her bat mitzvah, Noa—whose father died when she was younger—gives a speech in which she talks about how she was helped recently by texting a good friend of hers who had also lost his dad. Noah realizes that the contact labeled Chris in Dash’s phone had not been Chris at all. It had been Noa, and knowing Noah’s feelings about her, Dash had sought to conceal their bond. This discovery brings Noah and Dash back together, and they start toward a new, different future as best friends—one that encompasses both sides of life: the comedy and the tragedy.