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"Autumn, the year's last, loveliest smile." - William Cullen Bryant

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Ladies Auxiliary...Review


About the book:
Batsheva is free-spirited and artistic, and at first the women of the ladies auxiliary discover in her a passion for the traditions and rituals of Judaism which have become stale and routine to them. But when Batsheva becomes close with the restless high-school girls she teaches who are eager to catch glimpses of the non-Kosher world outside, and befriends, maybe a little too intimately, the beloved Rabbi's only son, Yosef, feathers begin to ruffle. When events come to a head, and Batshevea's past is revealed, the women's allegiances begin to split over whether Batsheva should be forced out of the community.


Batsheva is an unforgettable character, one who makes her claims on the reader's heart from the first page. The Ladies Auxiliary, beautifully and skillfully told, shows what happens when the outside world leans on a closed community so intent on keeping its children inside its tight walls that it cannot see it is losing them.

I loved the book. I wasn't sure what to expect of it, but I was pleasantly surprised. The book shares the story of a close-knit group of devout, Orthodox Jews in Memphis and what happens when a free-spirited, yet still Orthodox, outsider moves in. I loved the collective voice of the narrator: she wasn't one particular woman, she was all of them "we". I found myself saddened at the treatment Batsheva received at the hands of some of these women. Their self-righteousness was enough to make me want to scream sometimes.

The setting is unknown, but would seem to be current (the book was written in 1999). However, the misguided intentions, gossip, interference and persecution call to mind a much earlier time.

The author's prose is beautiful. Very flowing and honest. It certainly makes me wonder why our close religious communities can sometimes be so unwelcoming. Especially when we all profess a love of God. I didn't understand very much about the Jewish traditions, but it was fascinating to learn about them, and much of the reasons behind them.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can purchase your own here.

Read 1/08

* * * *
4/5 Stars

1 comment:

  1. I might pick this up just on your recommendation. Sometimes a good voice in a story is a good reason to read it.

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