So, I was looking forward to reading this, as I live in an area with very few Jews and, for reasons I won’t get into, we haven’t been making the trip to our synagogue lately. A Jewish-themed contemporary near-winner of a prestigious literary prize: I want to read it!
I am sorry to report that, 4 chapters in, this is a pretty cliche-ridden story. I can’t write anything better than the many other reviewers on goodreads who have expressed disappointment in this one. I had hoped for a smart, feeling, story with true-to-life (or, at least, believable) characters. These characters hate themselves and the narrator hates them, too. So far, everyone is fat, disheveled, distracted during prayer, and unhappy with their lives. Orthodoxy is not for me, but there are many who live within it fully and happily. Chani’s community must have people glad to dwell within it, or it would implode.
I’ll read a few more chapters, but so far it is leaving me feeling very icky.
So, I finished it. And fairly quickly, too. So it’s not unreadable.
How can it be that all the food is bland and tasteless, everyone’s hair is greasy, everything smells of stale sweat? Even the goyish motel room in this book is filthy. The people are willfully ignorant and self-hating. On top of all that, the editing is terrible. Repetitious phrases, spelling errors, names spelled different ways each time the same character appears — the best part of this book is the Yiddish glossary in the back.
I just don’t know what to say. There are so many stereotypes in here. Harris may not have intended it, but she’s written a tangibly negative book.