Disobedience: A Novel
ISBN: 0743291565 Global Overview for this book
4 journalers for this copy...
Alderman draws on her Orthodox Jewish upbringing and current life in Hendon, England, for her entertaining debut, which won the Orange Prize for New Writers after it was published in the U.K. in March. In writing about the inhabitants of this small, gossipy society, Alderman cleverly uses a slightly sinister, omniscient "we" to represent a community that speaks with one voice, and her descriptions of Orthodox customs are richly embroidered. Alternating with this perspective is the first-person narrative of Ronit Krushka, a woman who has left the community and is now a financial analyst in New York. After the death of her estranged father, a powerful rabbi, Ronit returns to England to mourn her father and to confront her past, including a female lover. But Ronit's shock that an Orthodox lesbian would marry a man rings false, as does her casually condescending attitude toward the community. By the time of the theatrical, unrealistic climax, Ronit's struggle between religious and secular imperatives gets reduced to cliché ("all we have, in the end, are the choices we make"), but Ronit works well as a vehicle for the opinion that even the most alienated New York Judaism is preferable to the English version, where "the Jewish fear of being noticed and the natural British reticence interact."
This is off to visit yourotherleft as a surprise RABCK! Enjoy!
Here's my review...
Disobedience begins with the death of the well-respected leader of an Orthodox Jewish synagogue in Hendon, England. The death of Rav Krushka sets off a chain of events which reveals the essence of one Orthodox Jewish community. Ronit Krushka, the estranged daughter of the Rav, is the perfect vehicle for this story, revealing the hypocrisy of those who eagerly pursue the righteousness God desires while at the same time failing to tamp down the sinful gossip and petty self-righteousness of their ingrown community. Additionally, the narrative takes a look at Ronit's cousin Rabbi Dovid Kuperman and his wife Esti who have eased into a marriage that is what neither expected and which provides happiness to neither. The Rav's death and the resulting return of Ronit to the community after a number of years absence unearth a number of issues that have lain dormant within the community and through which they must work in the course of the novel. Each chapter is artfully divided into three sections: one section for Ronit, one from Dovid and Esti, and one Godly anecdote that serves to shed light on the chapter's subject matter. With this format Alderman illuminates the community from God's perspective, from the inside, and from Ronit's slightly more deprecating point of view.
Readers will laugh at Ronit's wit with regard to her former community and her eagerness to knock this backward community off its axis, even if that means telling entirely wacky untruthes. They will sympathize as Dovid struggles against a leadership role in a synagogue which he is coming to respect less and less, and with Esti as she strives to find a way to combat her "inappropriate" desires and to combat the gossip of the coummunity she never could escape.
As each of the characters works to "fix" a group of people that are terribly stuck in their ways and to come to terms with those things that simply cannot be changed, this community and Orthodox Judaism come to life. In all, this is a triumphant story told with grace and sensitivity toward a community loved by God and its own citizens regardless of its imperfections. The narrative is richly rewarding as we watch the three main characters come to terms with the nature of their community and find themselves in the process.
I loved Alderman's honest depiction of Orthodox Judaism. The community's rigorous efforts to follow God's commands to the letter are astonishing. The characters are unique and engaging. Each faces their own difficulty within the community and within their selves, and it is fascinating to watch them become agents of change within a community that seems unchangeable and come to various degrees of contentment both inside and outside of the community. Additionally, I loved the first part of each chapter which is written in an almost sermon-like format using "we." I found that I appreciated the insight that these few paragraphs in each chapter had into the nature of God and the clues they provided for the larger meaning of the chapters. I really appreciated the format and the inside and out look at the community it provided.
Released 16 yrs ago (2/20/2007 UTC) at Postal Release in Postal release, By Mail/Post/Courier -- Controlled Releases
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
Sent to WestofMars who, it turns out, wanted a copy. Enjoy! =D
HUGE thanks! Enjoy your Debut a Debut prize!
One thing I really liked about this book was its structure. How each chapter opens with what is almost a commentary on Judaism, such as the Rav would have given had he been healthier. And then we move to a third-person narrative that can be from any number of characters, and finally, we have the first-person POV with Ronit. This creates both the community -- in the broader and narrower sense of the word -- as well as allows the heart of Ronit's story to shine.
I usually hate overly literary books. This isn't overly literary, but it IS literary. And man, is it a winner.
I really hope to hear more from Alderman in the future. This is one book that has been grossly overlooked.
Have not read it, but just the basic premise of leaving an Orthodox background strikes a chord that I am overly familiar with...as an 'insider' I may have a different view of the community depicted than others here might...only time with the book will tell...after the July 4th weekend!