The Book of Separation
The memoir of a woman who leaves her faith and her marriage and sets out to navigate the terrifying, liberating terrain of a newly mapless world Born and raised in a tight-knit Orthodox Jewish family, Tova Mirvis committed herself to observing the rules and rituals prescribed by this way of life. After all, to observe was to be accepted and to be accepted was to be loved. She married a man from within the fold and quickly began a family.But over the years, her doubts became noisier than her faith, and at age forty she could no longer breathe in what had become a suffocating existence. Even though it would mean the loss of her friends, her community, and possibly even her family, Tova decides to leave her husband and her faith. After years of trying to silence the voice inside her that said she did not agree, did not fit in, did not believe, she strikes out on her own to discover what she does believe and who she really is. This will mean forging a new way of life not just for herself, but for her children, who are struggling with what the divorce and her new status as “not Orthodox” mean for them.  This is a memoir about what it means to decide to heed your inner compass at long last. To free the part of yourself that has been suppressed, even if it means walking away from the only life you’ve ever known. Honest and courageous, Tova takes us through her first year outside her marriage and community as she learns to silence her fears and seek adventure on her own path to happiness.

The Book of Separation Details

TitleThe Book of Separation
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseSep 19th, 2017
PublisherHoughton Mifflin Harcourt
Rating
GenreAutobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, Religion, Biography, Literature, Jewish, Judaism

The Book of Separation Review

  • Elyse
    January 1, 1970
    Ultra-Orthodox Jewish women -Hasidic women - belong to sectarian communities, worshipping and working as followers of specific rebbes-they are set apart from assimilated, mainstream Jews.Here in America....In 2017....this is a lifestyle choice that many men and women follow. Hasidism -( a word Tova Mirvis doesn’t use in her memoir yet is the Hebrew word for Ultra-Orthodox Judaism)......or Orthodoxy....is a radical movement of Judaism which reaches back as far as the 18th century. The emphasis is Ultra-Orthodox Jewish women -Hasidic women - belong to sectarian communities, worshipping and working as followers of specific rebbes-they are set apart from assimilated, mainstream Jews.Here in America....In 2017....this is a lifestyle choice that many men and women follow. Hasidism -( a word Tova Mirvis doesn’t use in her memoir yet is the Hebrew word for Ultra-Orthodox Judaism)......or Orthodoxy....is a radical movement of Judaism which reaches back as far as the 18th century. The emphasis is on religious education for boys... yet for women and girls, the expectations for women are ‘still’ different. There have been changes through the years — yet there are male and female differences even today. In the early years women were not expected to move past basic literacy. Only in the 20th century, when it became clear young Hasidic women were hungry to pursue advance education- did we begin to see respected female ultra Orthodox Jewish Scholars—which incidentally paralleled feminist movements. Tova Mirvis was raised - from childhood in an Ultra-Orthodox Family. She ‘was’ educated - attended Columbia College University and received an MFA in fiction writing. She lived in Canada for awhile — but has been living in the United States for many years ( more years than I realized: her entire marriage of 17 years to Aaron as an Hasidic married woman)Today Tova — no longer practices the observances of Orthodoxy. THIS BOOK IS TOVA’S STORY. I found it ABSOLUTELY FASCINATING- DISCUSSION FASCINATING!! SO NOW I’m going to SHARE..... my little book report ... ha! (may the Bone God’s forgive me and do their density building in spite of me sitting too much and not keeping my retirement word from writing long reviews).... but I can’t stop thinking about this book yet .... so I’m writing this for my need of completion! Here is what is UNUSUAL—� Yet.... not the first time I’ve seen a late bloomer speak out. Usually by the time most of us are young adults - in our 20’s - we know if we are Gay or Straight - we know if we have a strong religious belief or not —� ( ok not always) - but gut red flags begin to speak to a person if something is not right - which they did for Tova before she married Aaron. She married young - in her 20’s - had not dated Aaron very long - and had little experience with dating period. But she and Aaron were fighting before the wedding about ‘value differences’ .... the signs were there. My husband and I knew a couple years ago that was married for 15 years with 3 kids. Then one day - the woman says, “I can’t be married any longer, I’m Gay”. The woman says - she always knew. The signs were there. Tova, 40 years old, was married for 17 years — also with 3 children: Noam 11.....Josh 7.....Layla 3. It took those 17 years to be clear about the divorce. Why does it take so many years for a person to allow themselves to live a life that’s most honest with who they are?What stops us from listening to our inner voice of truth?Why do we feel a strong pull to live a life filled with expectations and should’s? Why do we assign ourselves obligations.....even silly things ... none of which place ourselves as #1. These were all questions I thought about when reading Tova’s memoir. I don’t share the same specific issues that Tova went through....(I adore my marriage to Paul of almost 39 years)...I’m kinda a relaxed Jew too....follow few rules - and love our reform synagogue with a female Rabbi and female Cantor. “ Shir Hadash” - ( which means New Song)...where I attend ... is a happy thriving bustling place - lots of music - social action groups - freedom of thought. .......BUT.... I never once felt Tova was alone. I know what it feels like to doubt my inner voice - I know about choosing what I think I should do even if suppressed. TOVA didn’t hear her inner voice strong enough when she got married. She loved her husband Aaron in the beginning - but fought often with him. She followed the rules of what she felt was expected of her. She stayed married doing what was expected of her for those 17 years with inner conflict going on. Getting a divorce when you are a FEMALE ORTHODOX JEW, initiating it, is complicated. It would be much easier if the man initiated it. Tova had to be “released” ....from the house of her husband by the Rabbi. —�Ancient words - but for Tova - the freedom they promised seemed radical. ‘Some’ of the rules Tova had to observe as an Ultra-Orthodox Jew....( she didn’t need to believe in them - but she did need to observe them)....were as followed:.....As a Jewish wife - she was the backbone of the Jewish home. She would cook, bake, and raise the kids with great love. .....Her clothing was to be modest.... usually skirts - no pants - ( although she sometimes did) - and must cover her hair ( in the synagogue she always did... but broke the rule other times). .....During services the men and women sat on different sides — separated by the mechitzah (a partition). .....Even the two children ages Noam and Nosh we’re expected to sit for five hours long during Rosh Hashanah services. The younger child Layla went into the children’s nursery. I laughed ...because Tova did as women do while sitting in services all day.....I include myself. Instead of focusing on praying, and reciting prayers, she surveyed the dresses of those around her and especially the outlandish ones. ANOTHER RULE: .....One of the Jewish Laws that Tova followed throughout her marriage was The Mikeh. Tova would go to the Mikeh (purified bath water) - for ritual purity AND each month after menstruation or after childbirth in order to become ritually pure and permitted to resume sexual activity. In the United States most Jewish women have not observed the laws menstrual purity any longer — but as an ultra-Orthodox Jew ... Tova did. There are many other rules about meals - keeping Kosher - Shabbat - changing of dish racks - holiday’s - ( large and small), reciting blessings, etc. Tovah did a beautiful job sharing about many of the rituals - some of them she enjoyed - not everything was bleak. Building a Sukkah (a temporary hut that is half shelter that is half exposed) was fun to build and decorate with her children - then eat a meal in the Sukkah after making it. Towards the end of Tova’s marriage, she began compartmentalizing what she would observe and what she wouldn’t. She would keep kosher, observe Shabbat, go to the Mikvah..... but she no longer would study Jewish texts. She also stopped praying every morning, and would not go to the synagogue every week. Once Tova got a divorce— even the year before — things became very confusing for the children. Religious differences become very challenging to navigate the children especially when increasingly estranged. Little Layla would ask things like “is tonight going to be a mommy Shabbat?” Josh her youngest son- was already sick of being Jewish even before the divorce and wanted to eat pizza and play basketball on Friday nights. Noam wore his yarmulke on his head everywhere he went and felt strong about continuing his religious observances. What scared Tova was how religion might possibly divide she and her son. There have been stories about children who would not eat in their parents house any longer. I thought it was beautiful the way Tova was handling the open flow of communication- free speech - respect - listening - and supporting each other’s needs without giving up thyself. Tova would support Noam- and keep a Kosher kitchen — he could feel safe to eat in her home. When Tova did not have the children - she didn’t need to observe Shabbat if she didn’t want to. She could go anywhere - do what she wanted. AT LEAST TOVA NEVER HAD THIS HAPPEN:THERE HAVE BEEN CASES WHERE WOMEN IN AN ULTRA-ORTHODOX ENCLAVE HAVE LOST COSTODY OF HER KIDS. THE CHILDREN ARE PURPOSELY ALIENATED FROM THE PARENT WHO NO LONGER IS RELIGIOUS. —� Community members hire lawyers on behalf of the still orthodox spouse, claiming they are merely acting in the best interest of the kids.When reading this book - there was no question for me how incredibly courageous I thought Tova was. There were so many things she said — so many STEPS ALONG THE WAY POINTING TO *JUST HOW HARD LEAVING WAS. Given her situation- she did the VERY BEST SHE COULD. “Others might have illusion that you could run free, but born to this, you always knew where the electrified boundary lay”. “ in all my years fantasizing about leaving, I hadn’t understood that you could remain stuck inside. You can partake in the pleasures, but you might never enjoy them”. As long as this review is..... I *DIDN’T* GIVE MAJOR SPOILERS AWAY. I didn’t share WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THE DIVORCE... And how people in her Orthodoxy community responded to her once they knew about the divorce. I’ll end with an e.e. cummings quote which I love and reminds me of Tova“To be nobody-but yourself-in a world which is doing its best, night and day,to make you everybody else-means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
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  • Julie Ehlers
    January 1, 1970
    The entire time I was reading The Book of Separation, one particular question kept haunting me. Not a particularly nice or charitable question, admittedly, but it haunted me nonetheless. Specifically, If a person spends her teens, 20s, and 30s living in a restrictive culture and does her best to conform to that restricted culture, at what point has she forfeited her opportunity to become an interesting, mature, grown-up person?Well, I told you it was a rather uncharitable question. I don't know The entire time I was reading The Book of Separation, one particular question kept haunting me. Not a particularly nice or charitable question, admittedly, but it haunted me nonetheless. Specifically, If a person spends her teens, 20s, and 30s living in a restrictive culture and does her best to conform to that restricted culture, at what point has she forfeited her opportunity to become an interesting, mature, grown-up person?Well, I told you it was a rather uncharitable question. I don't know if the author is hiding a lot in this memoir for the sake of not embarrassing her family or if she just isn't that good at expressing what's really going on with her, but the end result is repetitive to the point of tedium. Yes, Tova Mirvis, I get it, you're in a conservative culture. Yes, I get that your husband is a true believer. Yes, I get that you are not. But you stayed in it all that time! In the years when most people are attempting to figure out who they are, you outsourced the job to your orthodox community. Apparently every time you argued with your husband, you yelled "I'm done!" and then didn't leave. At a certain point you were a grown woman and you still did this. When you finally decided to "rebel," it took the form of hiding in the bathroom during Shabbat and checking Facebook on your phone. You were around 40 years old at the time. What am I supposed to be getting from all this?I understand that breaking free from a restrictive culture isn't easy. I understand that it's not always about grand gestures but about a gradual pulling away. I understand that this doesn't always result in the most dramatic narrative, but that doesn't mean it's not worth telling, and the fact that we've heard these stories many times before doesn't mean they aren't still useful. I'm willing to concede all of that. But what particularly struck me about The Book of Separation is how little joy, how little true freedom, really comes across in this particular telling. Tova Mirvis mentions an idea she's heard before, something about how Orthodox Judaism can't prevent you from doing certain things, but it can definitely prevent you from enjoying them, and that's certainly the case here. Mirvis's guilt over her decisions suffuses the entire book. Even after she leaves the Orthodox faith, she seems unable to take pleasure in anything. Anything, that is, except for (nonkosher) pizza. She seems to pour all of her happiness and excitement at no longer being Orthodox into her enjoyment of pizza, and the narrative comes alive in a way it rarely does elsewhere. And again, I'm sure this is useful to some people, probably those who have also left a restrictive religious culture and also feel extremely guilty about it. But do those people really want or need to hear that their guilt will persist in following them everywhere, preventing them from truly enjoying their newfound freedom (except possibly when it comes to pizza)? What can we really learn from a woman who didn't leave her repressive culture until she was middle-aged, except that it's probably a better idea to leave when you're much younger?Honestly, no judgment on the author herself, who I'm going to assume is actually a reasonably interesting and mature person, and who I certainly hope is, by now, less weighed down by guilt than she was when she wrote this book. But there's the life you're actually living, and there's the life you're able to get across in your writing, and the life depicted in The Book of Separation is so dreary I could never recommend it to anyone.
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  • Rebecca Foster
    January 1, 1970
    Tova Mirvis broke from Orthodox Judaism at the same time that she divorced her husband, but her strict faith and her marriage had both been dissolving for a long time. Every time she chafed against wearing a hairpiece and a hat to synagogue, every time she resented having to check that all was prepared so she wouldn’t have to so much as turn on a light on the Sabbath, she drifted a little further from the religion that had previously given her so much of her personal and familial identity. “Doub Tova Mirvis broke from Orthodox Judaism at the same time that she divorced her husband, but her strict faith and her marriage had both been dissolving for a long time. Every time she chafed against wearing a hairpiece and a hat to synagogue, every time she resented having to check that all was prepared so she wouldn’t have to so much as turn on a light on the Sabbath, she drifted a little further from the religion that had previously given her so much of her personal and familial identity. “Doubt quietly, but don’t talk about it, don’t act on it,” she’d always told herself.In this graceful and painfully honest memoir, Mirvis goes back and forth in time to contrast the simplicity – but discontentment – of her early years of marriage with the disorientation she felt after leaving Orthodoxy behind as she renegotiated her family relationships and eventually found a new partner. The difference was particularly stark on Jewish holidays, which she still celebrated in a desultory way, mostly to keep things constant for her three children. “Every transgression feels like a first, each one new and destablizing.” I think any one who has ever wrestled with faith or with other people’s expectations will appreciate this story of finding the courage to be true to yourself.
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  • Sharon Hart-Green
    January 1, 1970
    This is a beautifully written book about an exceedingly sad topic: the dissolution of a marriage and the loss of religious faith. I should point out, however, that the author does not indulge in gratuitous criticism of either her ex-husband or her religion (to which she still adheres in a new way.) This book might be a difficult read for those who are religious, but I actually think it would be a great catalyst for discussion for all those of religious faith.
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  • Booksandchinooks (Laurie)
    January 1, 1970
    When I first heard about this book I contacted the author about receiving an ARC for review, which she kindly sent. All opinions are my own. I always find it fascinating to learn about other people's religion and belief systems and I love books about family so the premise of this book intrigued me. This book is a memoir written by Tova Mirvis. Tova was raised in the Orthodox Jewish faith. I didn't know too much about this faith before this book, but was interested in learning more about it. This When I first heard about this book I contacted the author about receiving an ARC for review, which she kindly sent. All opinions are my own. I always find it fascinating to learn about other people's religion and belief systems and I love books about family so the premise of this book intrigued me. This book is a memoir written by Tova Mirvis. Tova was raised in the Orthodox Jewish faith. I didn't know too much about this faith before this book, but was interested in learning more about it. This is not a religion where you go to church on Sunday and you have done your part. This is a very intense religion and you live your life completely within it. I wasn't aware of this but quite often you actually also live in close proximity of each other. There are many celebrations and rituals that are maintained on a daily basis. As Tova reached her 20's she started to question some of her beliefs. She becomes engaged and marries young as even more doubts start to creep in. Her husband was, of course raised within the same religion which he fully embraces. They go on to have three children and Tova's doubts start to impact her marriage. As she struggles to decide what she really believes and how she wants to live her life she comes to the conclusion she needs to leave the faith that has embodied her whole life and to leave her marriage. It is always heart wrenching in a divorce for everyone involved because all roles change. She now only gets to see her children half the time and also, how does she now raise them. They have grown up in the faith that she no longer believes in or observes. I found this very interesting because of the complexities here. This book is very well written and the author really bares her soul.
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  • Eliana
    January 1, 1970
    I appreciated her message but it felt a bit repetitive.
  • SundayAtDusk
    January 1, 1970
    Having read a few other books about women leaving Orthodox Judaism, I knew I would breeze through this one, since I find the topic so interesting. The fact Tova Mirvis also appeared to be emotionally intelligent, unlike another author or two, also convinced me I was on my way through her story at top-notch speed. Things don’t always happen as predicted, though, and about one-fourth of the way through her memoir I realized something--I was bored. What other books did I have to read? Maybe I could Having read a few other books about women leaving Orthodox Judaism, I knew I would breeze through this one, since I find the topic so interesting. The fact Tova Mirvis also appeared to be emotionally intelligent, unlike another author or two, also convinced me I was on my way through her story at top-notch speed. Things don’t always happen as predicted, though, and about one-fourth of the way through her memoir I realized something--I was bored. What other books did I have to read? Maybe I could come back to this book later, or read it in an alternating fashion with another book.What was wrong? Ms. Mirvis’ story just started seeming tedious. Was she going to continue going on and on about all the little things she was worried about until the end of the book? Of course, since Orthodox Judaism is concerned about so many “little” things in life, one could not blame the author for dwelling on so many “little” things; but still not all readers are going to be, nor should they be, understanding about tediousness. It was too much like having to read every little thought in an author’s head, not a good thing for either nonfiction or fiction books. Then, however, the story seemed to start gaining momentum. For me, it was when Ms. Mirvis started talking about her engagement and getting married. Moreover, later on in the story, when she actually stood up to a group of rabbis and told them how she so disliked having to worry about everything she wrote, and so disliked having to worry about being judged all the time about everything, the memoir became a totally worthwhile read in my eyes.Hence, the memoir gets five stars, even though parts of it were truly tedious. For ultimately, it was truly interesting to see how the author gave up obedience to father figures, as she had been taught as a child, and tried to navigate a world where those father figures no longer controlled or influenced everything in her life or in her mind. Nothing whatsoever against father figures, mind you, but if you don’t ever truly start thinking for yourself, do you ever truly emotionally grow up? Kudos to Tova Morvis for having the courage to change her life to how she felt she should live her life; and for doing so without throwing Orthodox Judaism under the bus. Furthermore, kudos to her relatives, friends, acquaintances and all others in the Orthodox Jewish community who did not treat her like a persona non grata, when she decided she could no longer live in their world, but could only visit.(Note: I received a free ARC of this book from Amazon Vine.)
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  • Kathy
    January 1, 1970
    I received a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.Two and a half stars.Tirvis' story of leaving her religious community and her marriage is, at heart, a compelling one, and I found myself drawn into the complexities of her life in the initial chapters of the book. As the book progressed, though, there seemed to be a lack of cohesion and organization that resulted in me losing interest in her story. At times, she begins sharing a memory, segues into another story, and then abruptly shifts I received a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.Two and a half stars.Tirvis' story of leaving her religious community and her marriage is, at heart, a compelling one, and I found myself drawn into the complexities of her life in the initial chapters of the book. As the book progressed, though, there seemed to be a lack of cohesion and organization that resulted in me losing interest in her story. At times, she begins sharing a memory, segues into another story, and then abruptly shifts back to her original train of thought. I was often left flipping pages to remind myself what her original train of thought had been. There is a stream of consciousness approach to the memoir that I didn't connect with. Readers hoping to relate to her marital issues may also be disappointed that she never shares anything of depth beyond their differing religious viewpoints; most marital issues aren't explored but shared in the vaguest of terms (i.e. that they fought a lot, that they "wanted different things.") The book summary also implies a sacrifice of family and friends, but other than some rude acquaintances who shun her upon her leaving their Orthodox community, she seems to leave with overall great support in her life (happily for Tirvis, but the book description does not feel like an apt one). There are also too many metaphors for Tirvis' growing independence - while they were charming at first, I grew tired of reading stories of her driving, going out alone, biking, or hiking as metaphors for her life in general. Still, there is an inspiring story at the heart of this book, though I wish the book had been edited and organized in a way to better deliver this story.
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  • Jess
    January 1, 1970
    Rarely do I encounter a memoir that I earmark to re-read again in the future, yet The Book of Separation is that one. With beautiful prose that long-time fans will recognize from her fictional works, Mirvis unravels the threads of her marriage and her faith. It's a story of losing one's religion in order to be free, but it's also a story of Mirvis leaving her marriage to live more truthfully.What I loved about this book is that it does not rely on saccharine language or self-deprecation in her s Rarely do I encounter a memoir that I earmark to re-read again in the future, yet The Book of Separation is that one. With beautiful prose that long-time fans will recognize from her fictional works, Mirvis unravels the threads of her marriage and her faith. It's a story of losing one's religion in order to be free, but it's also a story of Mirvis leaving her marriage to live more truthfully.What I loved about this book is that it does not rely on saccharine language or self-deprecation in her self-discovery. Her concerns seem real and tangible, even for those of us in young marriages or happy ones. There are revelations that any of us can recognize in ourselves.I received a galley of this book from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via NetGalley to read and review. This has not impacted my thoughts or opinions about this book.
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  • Brian
    January 1, 1970
    Tova Mirvis lived most of her life as an Orthodox Jew. She kept the traditions and the dutiful life that a woman of this faith lives but she feels like she doesn't really belong. One day she decides to divorce her husband and begin her life anew. This is her story. I learned a great deal about Orthodox Judaism from reading this memoir. The author is a very good writer and uses good language and imagery. My complaint about this book was that it felt like it took me a very very very long time to r Tova Mirvis lived most of her life as an Orthodox Jew. She kept the traditions and the dutiful life that a woman of this faith lives but she feels like she doesn't really belong. One day she decides to divorce her husband and begin her life anew. This is her story. I learned a great deal about Orthodox Judaism from reading this memoir. The author is a very good writer and uses good language and imagery. My complaint about this book was that it felt like it took me a very very very long time to read it and that I had made no progress. After finishing it, I appreciate the author's story, but I wish it hadn't felt so draggy at times.
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  • Jennifer S. Brown
    January 1, 1970
    Beautifully written memoir of Mirvis's experience grappling with her religious beliefs and with the strictures of the Orthodox Jewish community.
  • Kelly Nicole
    January 1, 1970
    This book was AMAZING! I’ve wanted to learn about Orthodox Judaism for a while and this was definitely the best way to. The author explains the religion and also provides her criticism of her previous religion and how it didn’t mix with her personality and her beliefs. The book is back and forth in time but its amazing and SO EDUCATIONAL! There’s no doubt about how brave she is for making such drastic changes in her life where she knew she’d upend her entire life and she not only did it anyway, This book was AMAZING! I’ve wanted to learn about Orthodox Judaism for a while and this was definitely the best way to. The author explains the religion and also provides her criticism of her previous religion and how it didn’t mix with her personality and her beliefs. The book is back and forth in time but its amazing and SO EDUCATIONAL! There’s no doubt about how brave she is for making such drastic changes in her life where she knew she’d upend her entire life and she not only did it anyway, she blossomed.
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  • Lisa Nelson
    January 1, 1970
    2.5 starsThis book is really difficult for me to rate. Memoirs and autobiographies are so personal that it feels unkind to throw harsh judgments at the author. I guess that is one of my biggest gripes with this book; the author feels like she left out huge chunks of what was going on in her life and what she was feeling making it way less personal. I absolutely understand that the reasons she did not go in depth were to protect her ex-husband, children, and community members, but it left me feel 2.5 starsThis book is really difficult for me to rate. Memoirs and autobiographies are so personal that it feels unkind to throw harsh judgments at the author. I guess that is one of my biggest gripes with this book; the author feels like she left out huge chunks of what was going on in her life and what she was feeling making it way less personal. I absolutely understand that the reasons she did not go in depth were to protect her ex-husband, children, and community members, but it left me feeling like she was holding back. Other times I felt like she droned on endlessly with a stream of consciousness writing style that just simply made the book way too long. There were some bright moments in the book that made it worth reading. I also really enjoyed learning more about growing up and being a part of the Orthodox Jewish Tradition.My lower rating may have more to do with me than the quality of the book. At this point in my life, I'm more interested in stories where people have decided to stay in their chosen faith and grapple with ambiguity and dissonance as opposed to those who have decided to leave. The author seemed immature and whiny at times, and that left a bad taste in my mouth. Speaking of taste I have to agree with a lot of other reviewers that she seemed to be more excited about eating pizza after leaving her faith than anything else regarding leaving. It seemed strange, but on second thought pizza is really delicious!
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  • Farrah
    January 1, 1970
    Very fascinating. Crazy interesting parallels between Mormonism and Orthodox Judaism.
  • Elka
    January 1, 1970
    Having read Mirvis' fiction, I was not surprised to find this book fairly well written. But if you're going to write a memoir, a little introspection is in order. At some point, perhaps after reading "I want to be free" for the billionth time, I would have liked to know, free from what? To do what? Now that she's eaten nonkosher pizza, is life going to be perfect?
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  • Naama
    January 1, 1970
    I had heard about this book from more than one friend and I judged it based on second-hand information. I’m glad I read it – it’s a much better way of forming an opinion.First of all, I thought it was well written: the thoughts were clear, the sentences were strong, the similes and metaphors appeared in just the right doses. This was striking to me because if not for the writing, this book could’ve been trite; As a middle-aged member of the modern Orthodox community, I’ve seen enough family, fri I had heard about this book from more than one friend and I judged it based on second-hand information. I’m glad I read it – it’s a much better way of forming an opinion.First of all, I thought it was well written: the thoughts were clear, the sentences were strong, the similes and metaphors appeared in just the right doses. This was striking to me because if not for the writing, this book could’ve been trite; As a middle-aged member of the modern Orthodox community, I’ve seen enough family, friends, and acquaintances leave – to different extents and in different ways – to find anything Mirvis wrote shocking or refreshing (plus so much has already been written and said about the great, inevitable mid-life crisis). And yet, I inhaled her book.I can’t dismiss Mirvis’ feelings nor can I really relate to them. I think everyone’s shackled by societal norms, and at least to some extent Mirvis traded in one type of shackle for another. Ah, but one person’s devastation is another’s liberation, one person is stifled by what another finds anchoring: beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and faith is in the heart of the believer.Even before I read it, I compared this book and its author to If All the Seas were Ink, another book I read and greatly enjoyed earlier this year. While the two book are still in dialogue in my mind, the stronger comparison in my mind is now between Mirvis and one of the characters in a different book I read this year. And I thought a lot about this punchline of a paragraph, written about that other character, in relation to Mirvis’ story: “In the story of the blind men and the elephant, what’s usually ignored is the fact that each man’s description was correct. What …. won’t understand and may never understand is that there is not one true self hidden by many false ones. Rather, there is one true self hidden by many other true ones. Yes, she is the meek and shy and industrious student. Yes, she is the panicky and frightened child. Yes, she is the bold and impulsive seductress. Yes, she is the wife, the mother. And many other things as well. Her belief that only one of these is true obscures the larger truth, which was ultimately the problem with the blind men and the elephant. It wasn’t that they were blind—it’s that they stopped too quickly, and so never knew there was a larger truth to grasp.”
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  • Gail
    January 1, 1970
    Overall, I thought it was interesting and thought-provoking, especially since there were so many moral parallels to Mormonism. Orthodox Judaism seemed kind of like being Mormon with 100 times more rules to follow. Sometimes the book felt a little self-indulgent as memoirs can be... "and then I stepped out into the rain with tears falling from my eyes..." I made that up, but I just mean the minute step-by-step detailing of her every thought, feeling and action. And maybe sometimes overly dramatic Overall, I thought it was interesting and thought-provoking, especially since there were so many moral parallels to Mormonism. Orthodox Judaism seemed kind of like being Mormon with 100 times more rules to follow. Sometimes the book felt a little self-indulgent as memoirs can be... "and then I stepped out into the rain with tears falling from my eyes..." I made that up, but I just mean the minute step-by-step detailing of her every thought, feeling and action. And maybe sometimes overly dramatic.Her reasons for leaving made sense to me--she felt trapped, didn't believe and was tired of pretending. I appreciated her honesty about the things she missed--the family time, closeness, rituals (family ones) and food she loved.I wrote down this quote: "Freeing yourself doesn't mean letting go of everything." I liked that. And this: "You can miss even what you need to leave."I wanted to know what she and her husband fought she bitterly about. She never really says. Also, she had a double whammy leaving her marriage AND her religion. It wasn't really a happy book. More reflective and full of pain--all the pain she felt at being trapped followed by the pain of leaving and separation.
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  • Anna
    January 1, 1970
    I haven't highlighted as much text since college, than I did reading this. This is a beautifully written memoir of a woman leaving Orthodox Judaism. Having been on a similar journey myself out of a different, but equally demanding religion, this book spoke to me on a very personal level, and I could relate to her experiences so much. The human experience really is shared, and I loved reading Mirvis' story that mirrored my own in so many ways.
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  • Joey Gremillion
    January 1, 1970
    Superb!! Many people who leave Orthodox Judaism, particularly Hasidism, write about their experiences with bitterness and leave out any joy or happiness that they might have experienced in their lives. Is it possible to have ZERO positive life experiences? I think not. Tova Mirvis writes frankly about leaving Orthodoxy without badmouthing her old life. I am a HUGGGGEEE fan, now. Kudos. I HIGHLY recommend.
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  • Emily Goenner
    January 1, 1970
    A little hard to rate this book, for me. Parts of it touched me deeply, since I can relate so closely to the pain of separation, leaving, losing what you hoped for. Even parts of the effect of Orthodoxy I could understand, interestingly, such as fighting the rules that had become the voices in her own head, and struggling with growing up "good" or "bad." On the other hand, sometimes there was just too much religion for this non believer.
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  • Jacqueline
    January 1, 1970
    My introduction to Tova Mirvis came while reading her novel, *The Ladies' Auxiliary* about an Orthodox community in Memphis. If that sounds like an oxymoron, please remember that my Jewish raisin' took place in Knoxville. Southern Jews talk a certain cadence that's unique to the blend, and Tova Mirvis captured the voice perfectly. I thought I was in Knoxville again. Mirvis' ladies sounded a lot like Jeanne Gudis, Faye Gluck, Esther Webster and Becky Winston, even if we are Reform. Y'all say Shal My introduction to Tova Mirvis came while reading her novel, *The Ladies' Auxiliary* about an Orthodox community in Memphis. If that sounds like an oxymoron, please remember that my Jewish raisin' took place in Knoxville. Southern Jews talk a certain cadence that's unique to the blend, and Tova Mirvis captured the voice perfectly. I thought I was in Knoxville again. Mirvis' ladies sounded a lot like Jeanne Gudis, Faye Gluck, Esther Webster and Becky Winston, even if we are Reform. Y'all say Shalom!Although I know how to be a Southern Jew, I have no idea what it's like to live as Modern Orthodox - and Tova Mirvis had no idea, until the time frame of her memoir, how not to be. When she faced the demise of her marriage and the fact that Orthodoxy was no longer home to her, she had to figure out how to live the best life for herself and her three children. Readers not of Mirvis' origins will receive a detailed, balanced education to mirror the journey upon which she takes us. For Orthodox readers who choose this book - and I'm guessing that as many will as won't - I cannot speak. Mirvis lets us in on deeply painful truths, strengthening trajectories, and unexpected resolutions. I'm hoping curiosity will be the catalyst.
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  • Alyssa
    January 1, 1970
    As a fan of Tova Mirvis's fiction works, I had high expectations for this memoir. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite what I wanted it to be. I think the problem is that I wanted to know more. I felt like she didn't go deep enough. There's so much more that she could have said about wanting out of her marriage, out of her religion. It seemed like we mostly got an overview.
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  • Dr. Harold
    January 1, 1970
    Dissing Orthodoxy: Critical Review of The Book of SeparationThere is a fast-growing oeuvre of books and movies by Jews opting out from their religiously observant lives. Two new works are from Netflix, One of Us, and The Book of Separation (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017), a memoir from bestselling novelist Tova Mirvis. The Book is hardly a spiritual journey eloquently described to anguished parents, spouses, and readers by other writers. This is a Book of Selfishness.The journey, as Mirvis cal Dissing Orthodoxy: Critical Review of The Book of SeparationThere is a fast-growing oeuvre of books and movies by Jews opting out from their religiously observant lives. Two new works are from Netflix, One of Us, and The Book of Separation (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017), a memoir from bestselling novelist Tova Mirvis. The Book is hardly a spiritual journey eloquently described to anguished parents, spouses, and readers by other writers. This is a Book of Selfishness.The journey, as Mirvis calls it, is from Orthodox Judaism and her marriage but not to some existential higher spiritual level. The journey takes the author into the arms of another man, which in the end seems enough for her. He is antireligious and gives gravitas to the longing for freedom niggling at Mirvis for decades. The Book makes me angry. Weeks later I still feel like an emotional stewpot. That impact alone is a healthy measure of success for an author, but The Book of Separation is little more than a back-slapping exercise totally ignoring the human wreckage the author leaves behind.The precepts of progressive, liberal, Modern Orthodox Judaism by which she lives for 40 years, including 16 years of marriage, are in her word shackles. There are many precepts, and Mirvis informs readers about them to the point of tedium. For others they provide structure. For Mirvis they “feel like iron bars (page 80)” caging her in a faith-based community without the faith in God she needs to accept the lifestyle.My three problems with The Book is the first, style. The story is told bouncing back and forth in time, and scenes are repeated. It’s confusing. For instance, her story opens with Mirvis appearing before a Rabbinical Court to accept her Jewish divorce. The scene is repeated in other parts adding little. It is not clear just when the emotional if not sexual intimacy blossoms with her boyfriend William. Is she still married, separated from her husband Aaron, or post-divorce? Is this what sparks the divorce? When does Aaron find out, and is it the cause of his fierce anger at her?Aaron is a generous first love. In Aaron, “There was a soft-shelled innocence to him, a wide-eyed child so easily hurt (page 139).” Perhaps Aaron’s greatest sin over time is being too familiar. He is a loving husband and great father. Aaron is a New York lawyer detesting his job but hangs in for years while Mirvis completes her degree at Columbia University. Their life in upscale Newton, Mass. is little different from the privileged lifestyle in which Mirvis has always been accustomed except now she is a mother.Aaron is conciliatory even when Mirvis initiates changes in her religious practices that affect the once eurythmic home. Anger between husband and wife mounts, but the author gives no clue why. A scene is thrust upon the reader. At a meeting with divorce lawyers, all hell breaks loose. Did he cheat on her? Was he abusive? Did she cheat on Aaron with another man? Is she is bound by a non-disclosure clause?When she no longer wants to cover her hair, a requisite for married women, Aaron acquiesces. When the oldest son asks if he can go trick-or-treating, Aaron says, if the kids are with me on Halloween, “The decision is mine (page 81),” and they are not allowed to go. If they are with Mom, it’s her decision. A week before Aaron remarries he graciously emails Tova giving her a heads up. The reader is never sure how and when Aaron learns about her boyfriend, but at the settlement meeting, Aaron screams, “You have no right to your own version of this story (page 23).”Aaron is not a professional writer, but he senses Tova will want to tell the world about her bravery and “heart-wrenching decision,” as one of a claque of reviewers describes the journey without barely an iota of criticism of The Book. Like the scorpion stinging the frog, Aaron knows he can expect no less. Aaron, the children, and grandparents suffer in silence.She is callous to the reactions of her community members hurt by one of their own writing novels denigrating Orthodoxy. In The Book, Mirvis sarcastically imagines her female friends and neighbors thinking: “Don’t you want to be as we are… happy homes, our beautiful families; don’t you want our sense of purpose and most of all our faith that we cradled in God’s all-powerful hands (page 145)?” Elsewhere she dismisses them calling them gossips.Second, The Book is not a compelling story. It offers no transformative message. Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love impacted a generation of women. Here and There: Leaving Hasidism, Keeping My Family by Chaya Deitsch is written, “laced with love,” as is Off The Derech by Faranak Margolese.My third problem is with Tova Mirvis. She plows ahead with the unending fortitude to become an outlier. She is not for this reader a sympathetic character. Lots of people choose to rebel, but for Mirvis the separation trumps the pain and suffering of a loving husband, grandparents, and children left behind.The children continue to be Orthodox. That’s why Mirvis continues keeping a kosher home and celebrating Shabbat for when the children are in her care. But along the way, two boys want to switch from private Orthodox schools. In a fit, one yells at her, “I hate the Jewish stuff (page 249).” Perhaps he’s thinking if they were not religious his mother might not leave? “I miss the way it used to be,” he blurts when she nostalgically recalls summer trips with their father. But it’s all about Tova. Her response is, “The rush of guilt and sadness rolls across me, and I let it inside me, able to hold this pain (page 289)…” But mothers are not supposed to cause pain.On her journey and through the separation (such antiseptic terms), Tova meets and later marries an avowed anti-religious, older, Jewish, doctor, father of three, going through his own divorce. She speaks of William like a giddy teenager. “William is tall, with green eyes and dark brown hair…He prides himself on his independence. He is a ‘free-range William,’ we joke. His strength is what has attracted me from the start (page 17).” “My heart leaps as it always does when I see William’s name” on her phone screen (page 31).” To paraphrase another author, William is a “transmission device for sunshine and optimism,” taking Mirvis on Shabbat non-kosher adventures. They hike, eat non-kosher pizza and cannoli, go zip lining, and travel on the Jewish holidays. William is absolutely committed to, “No religion for me….” His position is repeated throughout the story. “In being with him, I know that I’ve chosen the opposite of what came before.”How unfair to William, because her Orthodox extended family and children will always be in her life. This is my life and, “If William wasn’t before, he is now all too aware of how often religion will be part of our lives (page 97).” Sounds like they are having a picnic on a railroad track. In a measure, this reader feels sorry for William. Her good-bye journey ends in a Jewish takeoff of the mythic Elysian Fields.AUTHOR BIO Dr. Harold Goldmeier is a public speaker, Managing Partner of an investment firm, a consultant to firms in commerce and industry, and a writer. He teaches Values & Ethics to international university students in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Goldmeier is a recipient of the Governor’s Award (Illinois) for family investment programs in the workplace from the Com. on the Status of Women. He was a Research and Teaching Fellow at Harvard, a father and grandfather of very independent-minded children.Special thanks to Dr. Mika Smith of Tel Aviv for her insights.
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  • Linda Zagon
    January 1, 1970
    My Review of “The Book of Separation” by Tova MirvisKudos to Tova Mirvis, Author of “The Book of Separation” for such an honest, emotional and courageous Memoir. Can you imagine questioning why things have to be a certain way? Or imagine thinking of leaving a toxic situation, but are too afraid of what the unknown is? Or being so unhappy, and afraid of the consequences of making a change?In “The Book of Separation, Tova Mirvis writes a memoir about leaving her marriage and the Orthodox Jewish ru My Review of “The Book of Separation” by Tova MirvisKudos to Tova Mirvis, Author of “The Book of Separation” for such an honest, emotional and courageous Memoir. Can you imagine questioning why things have to be a certain way? Or imagine thinking of leaving a toxic situation, but are too afraid of what the unknown is? Or being so unhappy, and afraid of the consequences of making a change?In “The Book of Separation, Tova Mirvis writes a memoir about leaving her marriage and the Orthodox Jewish rules and rituals she has grown up with. Tova writes in such a positive way about her dysfunctional marriage and questioning her religious faith. What makes it exceptionally difficult is that Tova has three children, and wants the best for them.This is a memoir of searching for oneself, questioning, and maintaining a balance in life. As Tova becomes free, she starts to experience life in a way she never has before. She takes trips, tries new food, and enjoyable activities. As Tova deals with her new freedom, she also has to visit with the past because of her family. I recommend this intriguing and heartwarming memoir for those readers that enjoy reading Nonfiction and memoirs.
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  • Nicki
    January 1, 1970
    This was a fascinating account of one woman’s escape from a unhappy marriage, and a religion full of laws she no longer felt comfortable with.I was drawn to this book as I’d been through a similar experience when I left my church community a few years ago. As I was reading this I was nodding my head, and also cringeing as I remember having had the same experiences as the author. I too went through the same feelings of relief and worry about not believing in the same way anymore. I remember worry This was a fascinating account of one woman’s escape from a unhappy marriage, and a religion full of laws she no longer felt comfortable with.I was drawn to this book as I’d been through a similar experience when I left my church community a few years ago. As I was reading this I was nodding my head, and also cringeing as I remember having had the same experiences as the author. I too went through the same feelings of relief and worry about not believing in the same way anymore. I remember worrying about how to behave if I encountered people in the street that I used to share Sunday mornings with.I was equally fascinated and horrified by the author’s descriptions of all the laws Orthodox Jews have to keep, even the more liberal ones. It certainly opened my eyes to a whole new community of people I’d knew about but had never read about before.It was beautifully written, and I recommend it if you enjoy faith memoirs.Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for my digital copy.
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  • TheShrike
    January 1, 1970
    This is going to be a scathing review. However, I will give the author credit where it is due - she stirred emotions in me and that has to count for something. Negative emotions. But emotions nonetheless. And if a book can do that then it has some value. It means it at least challenged you to some extent.[It is difficult to review a memoir in some respects since there are 2 aspects to this type of book: the actual event/story that is being recounted and the stylistic/artistic merits of the way t This is going to be a scathing review. However, I will give the author credit where it is due - she stirred emotions in me and that has to count for something. Negative emotions. But emotions nonetheless. And if a book can do that then it has some value. It means it at least challenged you to some extent.[It is difficult to review a memoir in some respects since there are 2 aspects to this type of book: the actual event/story that is being recounted and the stylistic/artistic merits of the way the book was written separate from the story. I am just going to mishmash it all together.]I will start by saying that I am not some modern orthodox Jewish guy critiquing Tova because she "left the fold" and dropped some negative vibes on the religion.Far from it. My story is actually very similar to hers in that I also took a long, tortuous, emotional journey from being very religious to some sort of "irreligious" outlook and lifestyle. In fact, it was my own personal journey that drew me to Tova's story hoping I could find a relatable, helpful, and inspiring account of a similar journey. But it was really hard to get much out of this book for multiple reasons:To me, the Author comes across as unlikable and unrelatable. It was difficult for me to fully connect to her. She comes across as immature, childish, and extremely emotional. Yes, she is a Mother who loves her children intensely and yes, she does portray multiple events full of anguish and guilt but she just doesn't come across as a sympathetic figure to me. She comes across as a "scaredy cat" afraid of her own shadow - she is afraid of so many things that it is comical. While reading her story I got the feeling she had read one too many of those running-away-from-their-lives-because-everything-wasn't-perfect books. Wild. Eat, Pray, Love. How Stella got her Groove Back. She wasn't 100% haaaaaaapy and contented so she leaves everything.Don't get me wrong, I'm sure liberal, family-hating, feminists had multiple orgasms reading this book and her "Journey" from committed wife in a loving family to an empowered, strong, independent women but I just couldn't get into it.Actually I think her husband's story would have been much more interesting. Young hard-working man who is gentle (her term) and very accommodating (as Tova tells throughout the book) to his wife's changes struggles to keep his marriage together while his wife metamorphoses into something completely different and her values change completely from what they had agreed upon when first marrying.What bothered me probably more than anything else isthe new man in her life - William. She clearly started a relationship with him BEFORE her own marriage was over. While she doesn't mention any physical bounds were crossed she clearly states she realizes that she is developing feelings for him while still in her own marriage. This, of course, is a cardinal sin - and I don't mean this in a religious sense. Shame on her for hanging out privately with another man, confiding emotionally in him, and growing close with him while she was struggling with her current marriage. Shame. Shame. Shame. Shame.She also stresses multiple times how she needs to go through her Journey alone - without the crutch of another man. But of course, she does no such thing. Virtually the entire time she is leaning on William to get her through it. She ran from the arms of one man to the arms of another man. Something tells me this may not end happily ever after.She also leaves out critical information about her relationship with her ex-husband. She states they fought often. But she never explains what they were fighting about. Would the divorce have happened anyway? Were all their fights about religion and her changing? All I feel is sympathy for her ex-husband. His only crime is seemingly working too hard as a lawyer trying to provide for his family. Of course, it is his hard working efforts - and salary - that allows her to pursue her dream of being a writer but that never gets mentioned or credited. To me, he is the sympathetic character of this book.Another bone of contention: Where was her intellectual inquiry? When I went through my own journey I devoured heaps of books and articles about religion, God, science, evolution, arguments for and against God, Etc.... I don't get a single inkling that she tried to do this. She asks a few basic questions about the religion and God but it all comes down to feelings for her. Feelings, feelings, feelings. Where is her intellectual curiosity? It probably would have helped her sort out her feelings somewhat.My final thought: Once you become a mother (or father) to small children in a committed relationship your self-actualization takes a backseat to your responsibilities as a parent. Sorry, but that is the hard to swallow truth. Once you have started a family with multiple young children your primary duty is to keep that family healthy, warm, committed, and together. Divorce in almost every study out there has been shown to have a detrimental, harmful, and negative effect on the children. Not completely haaaaaaaaapy in life? Tough shit. You are a responsible adult. Wait until your children are older and then run away to whatever other man, other observance, other beliefs, or whatever you want to turn to. You are a married woman with small children in a loving family with a gentle (your words) husband who is trying to be flexible and accommodating. Keep your shit together for everyone's sake until they are older and can bear the emotional devastation of a divorce and split family more capably. And don't start a relationship with another man while you are still married. Shame on you.On a separate note: if you want to experience a great explanation of an emotional journey away from Religion that go watch "Letting Go of God" by Julia Sweeney.
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  • Donna
    January 1, 1970
    Author's memoir about leaving her Jewish Orthodox faith and divorcing her husband Tova Mirvis married in her early twenties. She made it to forty before she finally broke free of her religion. She also got a divorce since her husband is a devout Jewish man. Her stories of worrying constantly about what everyone thought about her - both before and after the break - sound a familiar bell in my mind. Tova asks some good questions: if you follow the 'rules' of religion faithfully, is that enough? Wh Author's memoir about leaving her Jewish Orthodox faith and divorcing her husband Tova Mirvis married in her early twenties. She made it to forty before she finally broke free of her religion. She also got a divorce since her husband is a devout Jewish man. Her stories of worrying constantly about what everyone thought about her - both before and after the break - sound a familiar bell in my mind. Tova asks some good questions: if you follow the 'rules' of religion faithfully, is that enough? What happens when you leave your religion behind? The read is a little slow but worth it. I read this after finishing "The Yiddish Policemen's Union" (Michael Chabon) hoping to get some clarity on Jewish religious observance - this book is not the correct book for that. It is, however, a solid memoir of someone making a huge religious change in their life.
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  • Pam Cipkowski
    January 1, 1970
    A few years ago, Tova Mirvis wrote an essay in the New York Times about her divorce. I expected to stop reading it after a few sentences, thinking a Jewish woman’s experience would be different from mine. But the unwitting following of “the rules,” the feeling of being trapped, the shame, and then the relief, and becoming the person I needed to be...that’s how it felt for me, too. Mirvis has since come out with a memoir, expanding on this essay and detailing the heartbreaking journey she took th A few years ago, Tova Mirvis wrote an essay in the New York Times about her divorce. I expected to stop reading it after a few sentences, thinking a Jewish woman’s experience would be different from mine. But the unwitting following of “the rules,” the feeling of being trapped, the shame, and then the relief, and becoming the person I needed to be...that’s how it felt for me, too. Mirvis has since come out with a memoir, expanding on this essay and detailing the heartbreaking journey she took through her life, marriage, and divorce as an Orthodox Jew. Her revelations are forthright and heartfelt, and her story flows quietly and evenly, although some readers may be put off by her sequencing and use of flashback. It took courage to share her story, and she tells it eloquently and humbly in this captivating and poignant memoir.
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  • Val
    January 1, 1970
    I am always intrigued by stories of how people are able to leave the world they have been raised in. Fascinating book about a woman leaving her life as an orthodox jew (modern). How do you leave a life you have been raised to believe?Tove begins to feel the strain of the strict rules/laws of Orthodox Judaism. Her journey leads her away from orthodoxy and her marriage. This is made more complicated because she has children. I loved that her family was supportive - even if they didn't understand. I am always intrigued by stories of how people are able to leave the world they have been raised in. Fascinating book about a woman leaving her life as an orthodox jew (modern). How do you leave a life you have been raised to believe?Tove begins to feel the strain of the strict rules/laws of Orthodox Judaism. Her journey leads her away from orthodoxy and her marriage. This is made more complicated because she has children. I loved that her family was supportive - even if they didn't understand. I loved that she didn't ask her children to choose - that she was supportive of whatever they wanted to be.
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  • Rachel
    January 1, 1970
    It was difficult to separate (ta da ching) this book from another recent Jewish memoir that I'd read, Abigail Pogrebin's MY JEWISH YEAR. Both of these memoirs follow the course of a year, often touching upon Jewish holidays. But while Pogrebin's memoir is about connecting more fully to Jewish rituals in an oft-progressive setting, Mirvis's is about leaving the strict rituals and life of Orthodoxy.Also throughout the essays in the memoir, Mirvis gives a backstory to her religious life, from child It was difficult to separate (ta da ching) this book from another recent Jewish memoir that I'd read, Abigail Pogrebin's MY JEWISH YEAR. Both of these memoirs follow the course of a year, often touching upon Jewish holidays. But while Pogrebin's memoir is about connecting more fully to Jewish rituals in an oft-progressive setting, Mirvis's is about leaving the strict rituals and life of Orthodoxy.Also throughout the essays in the memoir, Mirvis gives a backstory to her religious life, from childhood and through marriage. This is not the stereotypical account of an abused haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) woman stumbling out of a nightmarish world and never looking back. Mirvis grew up Modern Orthodox, and within her friends group and even her family, people practice Judaism differently. I was particularly taken with the set up of one of her essays where she travels to Israel for her niece's bat mitzvah--yet her brother and his family are part of a Hasidic sect! Just reminders upon reminders of how layered and complicated any religious observance is, despite some claims to the contrary.In broad strokes, Mirvis was someone who spent her childhood wanting to belong, even when questioning, because that's how she was taught about goodness. In a post-graduate study year in Israel, she actually did feel connection to the texts in a girls' Yeshiva, and upon matriculating into Columbia for her undergraduate degree, she stayed within the Orthodox world. She also married Orthodox--and young--which in retrospect is something she understands as having done without fully knowing herself first. Contrasted with her sister, Delilah*, who married (Modern Orthodox) at 37, and had much more experience and self-knowledge. Of course most people, not even just the traditionally religious, might find 37 too long to wait, but as a mid-30s singleton myself, who may or may not ever find herself under the chuppah; who knows what life has in store--I found it uplifting.I've somewhat casually thrown out the line that is the entire crux of Mirvis's journey away from Orthodoxy--"who knows what life has in store;" there is more than one way to live. Incrementally, she grew frustrated and depressed by following a sometimes self-righteous (meaning there are those who say that Orthodoxy is "the only way") path that increasingly didn't speak to her beliefs and her personal journey. I've heard this book praised for criticizing Orthodoxy without throwing the entire institution under the bus. And indeed, Mirvis has no choice at first, since in many ways it's the only path she knows, but more importantly her children will continue to be raised in the faith. Later, as she's able to get some distance and perspective, she reclaims parts of traditional practice that still hold meaning for her. In quite obvious, titular ways, this book is about separation. The title in fact comes from part of the get, aka Jewish religious divorce laws. And Mirvis comes from a world that holds itself apart enough that for many, any exit must mean a full and entire exit. Mirvis finds, through this painful yet inspirational process, that some things she has to leave behind for good. Yet in adopting a new type of worldview, there are some things that aren't so black and white, either.I got feklempt reading this book, and a lot of it is my own baggage. As a progressive Jew, I'm used to some Orthodox (and former Orthodox) seeing us as more alien than gentiles. Orthodoxy centers around a rigidity and literalist interpretation of laws, whereas my rabbi sermonized last Yom Kippur: "When some people decide that their ideas are superior to others and they attempt to silence opposing opinions and free discussion, that’s idolatry. When people worship every inch of the Land of Israel as sacred and indivisible, taking precedence over the sanctity and dignity of life, justice and peace , that’s idolatry. When people worship the idea that the bible must be followed literally, that’s idolatry too." (http://rabbisteinlauf.blogspot.com/20...) Yet, hypocritically, though I don't follow that life, I always get nervous when someone leaves Orthodoxy and essentially calls it "wrong." I suppose that's irrational residue about antisemitism and assimilation.Objectively speaking, I think Mirvis covers in her non-fiction, just like in her fiction, what it's like to embody complex realities. This is not about one way being "wrong" and another being "right." This is not about some grand epiphany, but about the small and complicated steps one takes in order to know oneself and the world. Also, as a fan of her novels, I was fascinated to see their creation play out in her life story. I was particularly taken with THE VISIBLE CITY, for as I focused on neighbors who saw each other throw windows but couldn't really *know* each other, she (and her husband) focused on the married couples who couldn't connect. Veins from the same source, surely.Like her other fans, I've been eagerly awaiting this memoir's publication for a few years now, and it certainly lived up to expectations. Now, not to be demanding or anything, I hope she goes and writes something else stat!*Mirvis changed the names of family members and friends to protect their privacy
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