Disobedience by Naomi Alderman
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A small, close-knit Orthodox Jewish community in London is the setting for a revealing look at religion and sexuality in Alderman’s frank yet heartfelt debut novel, Disobedience. The story begins with the death of the community’s esteemed rabbi, which sets in motion plans for a memorial service and the search for a replacement. The rabbi’s nephew and likely successor, Dovid, calls his cousin Ronit in New York to tell her that her father has died. Ronit, who left the community long ago to build a life for herself as a career woman, returns home when she hears the news, and her reappearance exposes tears in the fabric of the community.
Steeped in Jewish philosophy and teachings, Disobedience is a perceptive and thoughtful exploration of the laws and practices that have governed Judaism for centuries, and continue to hold sway today. Throughout the novel, Alderman retells stories from the Torah — Judaism’s fundamental source — and the interplay between these tales and the struggles of the novel’s unique characters wields enormous power and wisdom, and will surely move readers to tears.
Alderman’s greatest feat is in combining her extensive knowledge of Judaism with a story that is universal. Her characters, to be sure, are Jewish, but her novel recalls works like To Kill a Mockingbird and The Scarlet Letter, as it speaks to communities and readers everywhere. (Holiday 2006 Selection)
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