Title: DISOBEDIENCE

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9780670916283: Title: DISOBEDIENCE

A FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL JEWISH BOOK AWARD FOR FICTION
A FINALIST FOR THE SAMI ROHR PRIZE FOR JEWISH LITERATURE


For Ronit Krushka, thirty-two and single, who lives on Manhattan's Upper West Side, Orthodox Judaism is a suffocating culture she fled long ago. When she learns that her estranged father, the preeminent rabbi of the London Orthodox Jewish community in which she was raised, has died, she must return home for the first time in years.

There, amid the traditional ebb and flow of the community, Ronit reminds herself of her dual mission: to mourn and to collect a single heirloom -- her mother's Shabbat candlesticks. But when Ronit reconnects with her complex and beloved cousin Dovid as well as with a forbidden childhood sweetheart, she becomes more than just a stranger in her old home -- she becomes a threat.

Set at the crossroads of tradition and modernity, of personal desires and the demands of God, Disobedience is about the importance of moving on and what we lose when we do -- and it is about the tendency toward disobedience that we all possess.

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Review:

Disobedience is Naomi Alderman's richly told, endearingly evocative tale of two women and the choices they make as they come to terms with their identities in a traditional Orthodox Jewish community. In this groundbreaking debut, Alderman puts her characters to work, forcing them to confront issues of rebellion, isolation, loneliness and self-acceptance in a place where deviating from the norm often results in cold stares and hushed whispers at the kosher butcher shop.

Ronit Krushka is a lapsed Orthodox Jew, who fled the confines of Hendon, England, and her traditional upbringing for a secular lifestyle on Manhattan's Upper West Side. When her father, the community's revered Rabbi passes away, Ronit returns home to retrieve her mother's precious Shabbat candlesticks, and to revisit her troubled past. She reconnects with Esti, a former lover, whose choices have left her unsure and unfulfilled. As Ronit and Esti navigate through the demons of their past, each woman is forced to decide what kind of life she wants to lead, and with whom she wants to share it.

Alderman alternates between a lyrical and familiar style, introducing each chapter with a page of religious commentary that relates directly to the novel. While the commentary is interesting, readers may find themselves skimming it as the plot thickens and these introductions become more like diversions from the story's main message. Still, interruptions aside, Disobedience marks an important debut, and one that extends outside the lives of these characters to personify the struggle between conformity and individualism for everyone who has felt like an outsider. --Gisele Toueg

About the Author:

Naomi Alderman is a graduate of Oxford University and the University of East Anglia's Creative Writing MA and has published award-winning short fiction in a number of anthologies. She has worked as an editor and game designer, and spent several years living in New York. She grew up in the Orthodox Jewish community in Hendon, the neighborhood in London where she now lives.

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