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, Theology, Judaism, Family Law, Divorce, Biography Memoir, Spirituality

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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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  • 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.
  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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.
  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • Gail
    January 1, 1970
    I'm so glad that I did not purchase this book, but received it instead from my local public library. What a slog it was. I actually did finish it although I don't know why I stuck with the book as it irritated me so much. It's very repetitious (the author constantly writes the same thoughts ad nauseam), and after a while they became very tiresome to read. There were two things that really annoyed me the most, though. The first one was her excessive use of similes. (I call this filler). Just abou I'm so glad that I did not purchase this book, but received it instead from my local public library. What a slog it was. I actually did finish it although I don't know why I stuck with the book as it irritated me so much. It's very repetitious (the author constantly writes the same thoughts ad nauseam), and after a while they became very tiresome to read. There were two things that really annoyed me the most, though. The first one was her excessive use of similes. (I call this filler). Just about every page and sometimes every paragraph had these pesky comparisons. Aargh! The second annoyance was her ridiculous verbiage when she was explaining something to clarify it even more than it needed to be. Example: "misrepresented exaggerations." Huh? There have been many other books written about this subject that are so much better. Keep yourself separated for sure from this one.
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  • Alison
    January 1, 1970
    very disappointed with what happened in this book. wont' be reading any future books by this author.
  • Tracy
    January 1, 1970
    The Book of Separation is a heart wrenching memoir. Mirvis is simultaneously separating from her husband and her religion. She poignantly describes those that supported her and those that shunned her. Her beautiful writing makes this memoir meaningful for the reader and difficult to put down. Mirvis recounts the changes she made in her life and the impact they had on her children and other loved ones. This memoir is one of both struggle and hope. Mirvis is a fantastic writer and a very strong an The Book of Separation is a heart wrenching memoir. Mirvis is simultaneously separating from her husband and her religion. She poignantly describes those that supported her and those that shunned her. Her beautiful writing makes this memoir meaningful for the reader and difficult to put down. Mirvis recounts the changes she made in her life and the impact they had on her children and other loved ones. This memoir is one of both struggle and hope. Mirvis is a fantastic writer and a very strong and thoughtful person.
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  • Elizabeth Olesh
    January 1, 1970
    In this lyrical memoir, Mirvis (The Ladies Auxiliary) explores her decision to leave the religion in which she was raised and married, Orthodox Judaism.
  • Jill Meyer
    January 1, 1970
    Written on the back of the readers' copy of novelist Tova Mirvis memoir, "The Book of Separation", is the description, "The memoir of a woman who leaves her marriage and her faith and sets out to navigate the terrifying, liberating terrain of a new mapless world". Okay, but here's the thing, Tova Mirvis didn't leave her faith; she moved from Modern Orthodox Judaism to a less strict observing of Judaism. The difference between apostasy and a down-grading in Jewish observance is a big one.Tova Mir Written on the back of the readers' copy of novelist Tova Mirvis memoir, "The Book of Separation", is the description, "The memoir of a woman who leaves her marriage and her faith and sets out to navigate the terrifying, liberating terrain of a new mapless world". Okay, but here's the thing, Tova Mirvis didn't leave her faith; she moved from Modern Orthodox Judaism to a less strict observing of Judaism. The difference between apostasy and a down-grading in Jewish observance is a big one.Tova Mirvis is the author of three novels, which explore women and their relationships to family and faith. In this memoir, Mirvis explores the same subject, but uses herself and family as subjects. Mirvis, raised in Memphis in a Modern Orthodox family and neighborhood. She went to religious schools and college and spent a gap year in Israel. She also married at the age of 23 to a young lawyer, who came from the same background. But from the first, Tova had doubts about her fiance and coming marriage. Tova began having thoughts about her practice of Judaism and gradually turned against the strictures and restrictions of both the religious practices and the community she and her family lived in outside Boston. And as the years passed, she and her husband raised three children, while growing apart as a married couple. Mirvis's memoir is an interesting look at her own life and how she made the changes she recognised she needed to do. I do think the book is a bit too long; at 300 pages, it could be 50 or so pages shorter. But it's a personal look at what many women have gone through in the past 30 years.
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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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  • Janilyn Kocher
    January 1, 1970
    The Book of Separation is the story of Tova Mirvis' choices at a critical juncture in her life. Murvis practiced and adhered to the strictures of Orthodox Judaism. She waxed and waned with her faith until she had to make changes in her life concerning her marriage and her orthodoxy. The reader is given a gleaning to the many rules of her faith. I'm intrigued by Orthodox Judaism but could never conform to its rigidity. Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.
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  • Rita
    January 1, 1970
    I have always been a Tova Mirvis fan, and now even more so. A brave and courageous memoir.
  • BOOKLOVER10
    January 1, 1970
    Tova Mirvis bares her soul in "A Book of Separation," in which she recalls her Modern Orthodox upbringing in Memphis; her sixteen-year marriage to Aaron, with whom she had three children; and her decision at the age of forty to leave not only her husband, but also traditional Judaism. Tova, (a name that in Hebrew means "good"), is a novelist who married too young and too hastily, before she and Aaron really knew who they were and what they wanted. Although they stayed together for a long time an Tova Mirvis bares her soul in "A Book of Separation," in which she recalls her Modern Orthodox upbringing in Memphis; her sixteen-year marriage to Aaron, with whom she had three children; and her decision at the age of forty to leave not only her husband, but also traditional Judaism. Tova, (a name that in Hebrew means "good"), is a novelist who married too young and too hastily, before she and Aaron really knew who they were and what they wanted. Although they stayed together for a long time and were grateful to have two beautiful sons and a daughter, Aaron and Tova gradually drifted apart and began quarreling. Tova had hinted now and then that she was no longer comfortable with the rituals that defined their existence, but Aaron was still shocked when she asked for a divorce.Mirvis's writing is exceptional. She creates poetic images and vivid metaphors, and in heartfelt passages, shares her feelings of pain, guilt, and loss. The author does not single out religion as the sole source of her discontent. In fact, she acknowledges that Orthodox Judaism is, for many individuals (including Tova's Chasidic brother), a beautiful and fulfilling way of life that helps bring harmony, peace, and joy to its adherents. Nor does she blame her husband for her woes. Instead, after much soul-searching, she realized that her insular community was slowly suffocating her. She was no longer content to go through the motions of pretending to be happy."The Book of Separation" is a poignant and, in many ways, sad description of the dissolution of a long marriage, made all the more difficult because three children were involved. Tova and Aaron consulted lawyers and therapists before splitting up their property, settling on a joint custody agreement, and making the transition from a couple to single parents. This memoir is a rich tapestry that flashes back to Tova's childhood, education, early years with Aaron, and her excitement and pleasure at becoming a mother and a novelist. Finally, she finds the courage to express her misgivings to her husband, parents, and friends. Eventually, she forges a new path, and takes her first tentative steps into uncharted territory.
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  • Ilana
    January 1, 1970
    When the Jewish divorce is pronounced, the Biblical term for the get document given to the woman is sefer kritut, in translation, the book of termination or the book of separation. In her memoir, Tova Mirvis retraces her journey from the moment when her separation process started - not only from her husband, but from her Orthodox life - until she climbs her own mountain and tries to set up her free life, the original version of herself. 'After years if trying to silence the voice inside her that When the Jewish divorce is pronounced, the Biblical term for the get document given to the woman is sefer kritut, in translation, the book of termination or the book of separation. In her memoir, Tova Mirvis retraces her journey from the moment when her separation process started - not only from her husband, but from her Orthodox life - until she climbs her own mountain and tries to set up her free life, the original version of herself. 'After years if trying to silence the voice inside her that 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'. I've previously read and reviewed another book by Tova Mirvis and liked both the approach and the writing. Her memoir to be released in a couple of months, flows beautifully, streaming through the various tensed and even anxious life moments, while trying to put herself and the scattered fragments of her life together. After 17 years of marriage and three children, the lines between herself and the community, the path of the tradition and her own path are blurred and where other could easily find comfort and peace she is tormented by questions. Her incessant questioning marks her progressive taking off, starting from getting away from the community pressure - 'we were taught, we were told, we were watched' -, following her voice as a writer, ending up her own struggles with observance and reconciling her old and new ways with her new situation as a divorced woman partly in charge with the education of her children, with a father remaining Orthodox. Sometimes, making choices is much easier although painful and difficult, than being accepted for what your choices made of you. I loved everything about this book, but especially the honesty and the genuine way she opens her heart. Is that kind of book that I would not have anything against reading twice.Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange for an honest review
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  • Larry
    January 1, 1970
    From Mendel the mouse to an NCSY kumsitz, from yeshiva-in-Israel conviction to post-Orthodox, post-marriage, post-community reinvention, Tova Mirvis captures what it means to be a modern Orthodox Jew, walking the tightrope that doesn't always hold.
  • Linda
    January 1, 1970
    Tova Mirvis was brought up in the Orthodox Jewish tradition, marries an Orthodox man after knowing him for 12 weeks, and realizes after 16 years of marriage that she is looking for more that the tightly-knit community offers to a woman. This memoir follows her journey through her marriage, her life as an Orthodox wife and mother, and her divorce. This insightful book is a pleasure to read, both for the way it is written and for the glimpse into a world few of us will know.
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  • Laurie
    January 1, 1970
    I really liked Tova's story of her divorce and choice to separate from Orthodoxy. Although a "Jewish story " the themes of not fitting in with a community and not believing are universal as are her observations on how family members can be different yet accepting.
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  • Rachel
    January 1, 1970
    The writing is wonderful, much improved from her previous work. I could relate to everything in this book - regarding religion. So well done.
  • Shelley Sherman
    January 1, 1970
    I won't give a detailed plot summary as that is widely available elsewhere. This book has received very positive reviews and so i selected it for a book group that i lead. I was actually disappointed.Most of the people with whom she interacted in life were very sketchily drawn., Most significantly her husband. For 16 years they fought all the time not only about her disengagement with orthodoxy, but we never learn anything about him or the nature of their marital unrest. She is trapped she says I won't give a detailed plot summary as that is widely available elsewhere. This book has received very positive reviews and so i selected it for a book group that i lead. I was actually disappointed.Most of the people with whom she interacted in life were very sketchily drawn., Most significantly her husband. For 16 years they fought all the time not only about her disengagement with orthodoxy, but we never learn anything about him or the nature of their marital unrest. She is trapped she says repeatedly in her effort to be good and follow the rules, but one suspects he feels pretty trapped too.He is shown to accept her deviations, respects her decision to allow the kids to trick or treat, etc. but none of his adaptations are credited . Nor do we see anything but the most superficial reaction of their three children to the conflict and divorce,This is her memoir and so i accept that it is about her and her experience with an increasing doubt and dissatisfaction with the religious strictures of Orthodox Judaism, but to me it reads a little whiney and judgemental, and very angry. She made choices but seemingly takes no responsibility for them. I found myself shocked to have less empathy for her than i presumed i would. She disrespects those who accept Orthodoxy as if it were inherently bad instead of just a bad match for her. i am interested to see how my book group reacts- i will not share my thoughts until they have had a chance to discuss.
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