fiction · YA

Book Review: Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon

You know that feeling when your TBR is empty and you have absolutely nothing to read, so you’re just wandering around the library listlessly?

Yeah, me neither.

What really happened was this: I had a stack of like five books or so that I needed to read, but my daughter wanted to get some library books, so I took her over, telling myself, “I’m not getting anything for me! I have way to much to read already.”

And then the library had a lovely display of books that included Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon (Simon Pulse, 2020), whom I LOVE, and, well, it went into my bag, because I have no self-control when it comes to Jewish authors I love. And this was such an excellent moment of weakness, because I ADORED this book.

It’s the last day of high school, and Rowan Roth is ready to finally best Neil McNair once and for all by being awarded valedictorian. She and McNair have been battling it out every single minute of the last four years, each trying to outdo the other for grades, awards, status. The day isn’t starting out great, though; a fender-bender has Rowan slipping into the office late, only to face – who else? – Neil, who works there. Ugh.

The whole last day of school is strange, and when the senior class game – Howl, a Seattle-wide scavenger hunt that will award the last student standing with $5,000 – starts up that evening, Rowan quickly finds herself paired up with Neil, who…maybe isn’t quite as awful as she’s made him out to be the past four years. He’s maybe even kind of cute. And – holy shit- he’s Jewish, too???

What else has Rowan missed???

As the night goes on, Rowan and Neil grow closer, and she learns so much about him that she hadn’t known before, since her focus had been solely on competition. But things change, people change…and with everything else changing at this moment in time, maybe it’s time for Rowan and Neil’s relationship to change as well.

This is such a fun YA novel. Rowan is driven, almost single-minded, and that causes her to miss out on a lot, something she’s only really realizing on this last day of senior year. Her love of romance novels is endearing; I love the growth and openness she attributes to her admiration of the genre, because it makes her a far more interesting character than it would have otherwise. There is one scene I didn’t care for at all; Rowan goes too far and uses something she learned about Neil to lash out and hurt him the way she felt he hurt her, and…it was too far. I was honestly a little surprised Neil moved on from that as quickly as he did. I don’t know that that was a choice I would have made as an author. But really, everything else in this story is perfection; it’s a straight-up love letter to Seattle (a phrase I thought of early on, only to read it in Ms. Solomon’s afterword. *high five*), a city I’ve never been to, but which Ms. Solomon made come alive. I truly felt like I’d spent the day racing around the city with Rowan and Neil.

And Neil! What a great character. Awkward, determined, quirky, hardworking, Jewish – what’s not to love? I had a somewhat similar relationship with a guy friend in high school, though nowhere near as competitive (we were into very different things, for one). This was long before the days of texting, so I had to wonder throughout this book what our texts would have looked like, if they would’ve been as snarky as Rowan and Neil’s (likely worse; we were pretty brutal at times). I enjoyed their friendship and their blossoming romance, and the optimism for the future that this book absolutely bursts with.

Such a great read. Rachel Lynn Solomon absolutely knocked it out of the park with this one.

Visit Rachel Lynn Solomon’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

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fiction · romance

Book Review: Well Matched by Jen DeLuca

I absolutely adore Jen DeLuca. I loved her Well Met, enjoyed Well Played, and have been waiting for her latest book, Well Matched (Berkley, 2021), which I finally checked out of the library this last trip. All the books in this series are set against the backdrop of a town that holds an annual Renaissance Faire, and as someone who has been known to enjoy a good Ren Faire once in a while (still didn’t feel comfortable enough to go this year, sadly), I’ve really enjoyed living in the world of Ms. DeLuca’s stories. Well Matched was absolutely no different.

In Well Matched, we hear from April, the single mother sister of Emily from Well Met. She’s spent the last eighteen years raising her daughter Caitlin on her own, ever since her ex-husband decided he didn’t want to be a dad and walked out on her. It hasn’t been easy, and April has built some serious walls around her heart in order to survive, but she’s managed, and now Caitlin is preparing to graduate high school and head off to college. Finally, April’s real life can begin! She can sell her house and get the hell out of the small town she’s been raising her daughter in.

But first, the house needs to be updated, and that’s where Mitch, the himbo gym teacher of the friend group comes in. He’s there to help her paint and repair, and in exchange, April agrees to pretend to be his girlfriend for a family get-together, so that his judgmental family can finally start to see Mitch as someone who has his life together. The family gathering turns out to be a little more complicated than April expected, though, and so do her feelings for Mitch, who is also turning out to be a little more complex than she originally thought.

When their fake relationship goes from pretend to is-this-really-happening, April’s more than a little panicked: those years of brickwork she’s constructed around her heart are making it more than a little difficult to accept that Mitch’s feelings – and hers– are real, and safe. There’ll be a little heartbreak on the way, but there’s magic at the Ren Faire…

GAWD, I loved this book. I can’t say I loved Mitch or April in the other books, but I ended up absolutely adoring both of them throughout this whole thing. April is prickly as hell, but with good reason, and I truly related to her introvertedness and desire to hide away in her house (something I’m trying to change, but this frickin’ pandemic won’t let me *grumblegrumble*).

Visit Jen DeLuca’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

fiction

Book Review: Girl A by Abigail Dean

I somehow missed the nightmare Turpin case when it broke, but I’ve followed it ever since I learned about it (my God. Those poor kids). So when I learned about Girl A by Abigail Dean (Viking, 2021), a novel that seemed like a fictionalized account of the Turpin story, set in Great Britain, it went onto my list. It took for-ev-er for this to actually be in at the library, however; seems as though everyone in my town is just as horrified by that story as I am.

Girl A is Alexandra, or Lex, the eldest daughter and second eldest child of the Gracie family, where eight children were discovered, chained and emaciated, living in unbelievable filth. She’s the one who escaped, who dropped from a second-story window and broke her leg in the process, but who saved her other siblings. Her father poisoned himself before the police showed up, and Mom went to prison; now, at the beginning of the story, Lex is an adult, a lawyer, traveling back to England from New York City, to deal with her mother’s death.

The story jumps back and forth in time, from what happened leading up to the dramatic rescue of the Gracie children, to how growing up in such terrible conditions affected the children as adults. Some have fared better than others; no one has made it out unscathed.

This is a hard book to describe. None of the adult Gracie children are particularly likeable; some of them are a bit frightening in their ability to manipulate. Several are just tragic. It’s hard to get a full read on Lex, since she’s so damaged and deals with that damage by drinking a lot. A revelation later on in the book had me questioning pretty much everything about her, and the murky conclusion didn’t help matters at all.

I enjoyed the storytelling of this novel, but I wish there had been more concrete conclusions, and that it had felt more solid as a whole. If you’ve read this, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Visit Abigail Dean’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

fiction · thriller

Book Review: The Nowhere Child by Christian White

I have a love-hate relationship with missing child stories. On one hand, they’re incredibly hard to read. How do you even survive any of that? On the other hand, it’s like a bruise I can’t stop poking at (I blame growing up with Soul Asylum’s Runaway Train blaring on MTV, the pictures of missing children and teenagers running on a loop on the screen every few hours during my early teen years). The Nowhere Child by Christian White (Affirm Press, 2018) ended up on my list as soon as I learned about it; a missing child, a multi-continental story, a weird religious group…yup, I was in.

A strange man shows up in Kim Leamy’s Australian town one day, making claims that she’s not who she thinks she is: she’s actually Sammy Went, who went missing from a small Kentucky town almost thirty years ago. At first, Kim finds his story ridiculous (her late mother, a kidnapper? Hardly)…but then things start to add up, and her stepfather very obviously knows more than he’s saying. When the man reveals himself to be Kim’s biological brother, she knows she needs to figure this all out, so it’s off to America to learn the truth.

The Went family already had deep cracks by the time Sammy was born; father Jack had tried to bury his attraction to men, but that wasn’t working out so well; mother Molly’s fierce devotion to the snake-handling church Jack grew up in and has since abandoned is dividing everyone in the family and pushing Jack even further away. When two-year-old Sammy goes missing, long-hidden secrets come to light, but it’ll take decades before the truth really comes out.

This is a really solid thriller, one that involves a dangerous cult whose devotion to remaining ‘other’ costs lives. Complicating everything are Jack’s sexuality in a time and place that refuses to understand it and thus his need to keep it hidden, teenager Emma’s difficulty with her parents, and, in the current-day sections of the narrative, Kim’s piece-by-piece uncovering of the reality of who she is and how small-town secrets conspired to keep the truth of Sammy’s disappearance under wraps for so long.

The book goes back and forth in time, switching from third person narration by various characters, to first person narration by Kim. This keeps the story moving, but it also serves well to keep the reader on edge, guessing about what really happened, who was really involved, and why. I’m usually pretty bad at figuring out whodunit, but I had this one kinda pegged early on, though the why of it all wasn’t fully fleshed out in my mind until the full explanation appeared in the book. I enjoyed following the characters on their journeys. There are some surprises here, but all in all, this was a good, solid, enjoyable read.

Visit Christian White’s website here.

fiction

Book Review: God Spare the Girls by Kelsey McKinney

I can’t remember where I learned about God Spare the Girls by Kelsey McKinney (William Morrow, 2021), but the premise intrigued me immediately. I’m fascinated by religion, and even fiction with religious twists or drama is enough to pull me in. Usually I swing more towards cults or cult-like settings, but I’m not picky; I’ll take average, everyday religious drama!

Abigail and Caroline are daughters of a famous megachurch pastor, Luke Nolan, who rose to fame years ago after a sermon on purity went viral. Now, Abigail is getting married, Caroline is about to head off to college, and it’s come to light that Luke has been having an affair for over a year. This is major news, bound to affect everyone affiliated with The Hope, Luke’s church, and Abigail and Caroline are directly in the path of the fallout.

Taking refuge at the ranch they inherited from their deceased grandmother, the sisters grow close for the first time as they spend their days trying to understand what happened, how they got here, what exactly growing up with Luke Nolan as a father has done to both of them. More secrets are revealed, and Caroline’s desperation increases as the summer nears an end and Abigail’s wedding inches closer.

I really wanted to love this book, and it was okay. Luke Nolan obviously has some major skeletons in the closet, and both he and his wife, Abigail and Caroline’s mother, were extremely well-written and true to character, easily recognizable if you have even the slightest bit of knowledge or interest in what American evangelical megachurches have looked like over the past twenty or thirty years. Luke is the narcissistic pastor determined to remain in the limelight; his wife, ever-adoring, keeps a smile plastered on her face at all times, despite what it costs her.

Abigail is the quintessential eldest daughter, solid, hard-working, always keeping up appearances like she’s learned from her mother. Caroline, the younger, more forgotten child, has space to wonder, to question, to doubt, and to forge her own path; no one is as dependent on her as they are on Abigail, which is both good and hurtful.

The characters were all well-developed; the plot, or lack thereof at times, was where the book lost me a bit. Drama would build up, and then…nothing. Not much of anything would happen. Any kind of action was sacrificed on the altar of Caroline’s (the narrator’s) inner turmoil (which is likely true to real life, but in fiction, I expect a little more action, you know?). I kept waiting for more things to happen to advance the plot forward, for the realizations the daughters came to to move things along, but it never really happened, and at least one of the daughters is arguably worse off at the end than at the beginning. Not much at all changes, and that just kind of left me feeling flat and uninspired at the end. I didn’t fully dislike this one; I just felt as though it lacked any real purpose at its conclusion. Interesting, yes, but it didn’t follow through enough on its initial promise of drama for me.

Visit Kelsey McKinney’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

fiction

Book Review: The Ladies Auxiliary by Tova Mirvis

Okay, y’all. I have discovered a deep love for Tova Mirvis’s books. I’ve read The Book of Separation and The Outside World, both of which I loved, and a few week ago, I picked up a copy of The Ladies Auxiliary (Ballantine Books, 1999). From the first page, I was hooked with a capital HOOKED. This book pulled me in like a shark dragging me into the deepest ocean waters, and I didn’t want it to end, like, EVER. If you haven’t read Tova Mirvis, you neeeeeeeeeeeeeed to. She’s so good.

The orthodox Jewish community of Memphis, Tennessee is abuzz with the news of a new woman moving to town. Bathsheba, a recently widowed mother, has come to town, her late husband’s hometown, with her five-year-old daughter Ayala, for a fresh start, and the women of the town want to know everything about this unconventional woman. Bathsheba is a convert, a woman with a past outside of Orthodox Judaism, and immediately, the community is on edge. Who is this woman with her strange way of dressing and her outside-the-box behavior? What kind of influence will she be on the young people of their community? What’s she really doing here?

The more the women get to know Bathsheba, the more suspicious they are. Even though she’s still following the rules of the community, is she really following them well, with the right spirit? After all, they wouldn’t want their daughters to end up like her. Surely they’re in the right in ostracizing her, because she just doesn’t fit in. Not really. And the more the women of Memphis try to push Bathsheba away and make her understand she’s not wanted, the more damage they actually do to one of their most beloved members.

Oh my goodness, this was WONDERFUL. The Ladies Auxiliary is narrated in a kind of first person plural, as in “We thought this,” and “All of us wanted to know…”, and then goes into examples of that behavior, describing each character in third person omniscient. I loved this structure SO much. I’ve never seen this done before, and it worked so very, very well to illuminate the suspicion, the fear, and the gossipy, bullying nature of some members of the community. Absolutely incredible storytelling.

Bathsheba is a strong character who withstands a lot in this book. She does show her hurt several times, but not as much as one might suspect. The other members of the community, for all their piousness, are often portrayed as nosey, judgmental, and unable to see beyond the tips of their own noses. The introduction of a colorful new person to their insular community wakes them up, but not in the way they need to, and their behavior and treatment of Bathsheba will have exactly the opposite effect, driving them all apart, harming their relationships with each other, and most of all, harming the very last person they wanted to hurt.

The Ladies Auxiliary comes to an excellent conclusion, with a few questions still left up in the air. Plenty still remains to be seen, and that’s left for the reader to wonder, to ponder, to try to fill in the blanks. Does the community truly learn its lesson? It’s something I’ll be considering for a long time.

Excellent, excellent book. I loved every page of this.

Visit Tova Mirvis’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

fiction · YA

Book Review: Why We Fly by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal

A book on high school cheerleading wouldn’t normally appeal to me. I’m not in high school, my one brief foray into cheerleading (seventh grade) did not go well, and while cheerleaders are incredible athletes, it’s generally not a subject that interests me. But the premise of Why We Fly by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal (Sourcebooks Fire, 2021), along with its first person, dual-narrative structure, lured me in right away. It only took a few tries to finally find it on a somewhat-local-to-me library! (Always glad to see interest in the books that interest me. I’m never too bummed when I have to wait a little bit!)

Why We Fly begins with Eleanor in physical therapy, where she’s been for months following her second concussion after a cheer accident. It’s affected everything about her life – not just her ability to cheer, but her ability to drive, her memory, even her personality. Concussions are serious business, but Eleanor just wants to get back to cheering. At PT, she runs into Three, the star quarterback from her school who’s on his way to college football and a career in the NFL, and things fire up a little between them.

Chanel, Eleanor’s teammate and best friend, is super-focused on success. Leadership runs through her veins, and she’s determined to succeed in everything she does. When Eleanor is named team captain, Chanel can’t believe it; with as hard as she’s worked, how is this possible???

This will affect everything, because the team needs strong leadership right now. Teams across the country are coming to understand the systemic racism inherent in the US, and Chanel and Eleanor’s school is no different. The fallout from their teammates taking a knee during the anthem will have dramatic effects on their school, their friendship, and their futures, and both girls have a lot to learn.

This ended up being a really interesting book. I was kind of expecting it to be more about concussions, but it left that behind early on and segued into the Black Lives Matter movement and how that movement plays out in high school sports teams, how high school administrations respond to it, and how it can divide friendships. Eleanor got caught up in a lot of things in this story; I wondered often if the multiple concussions had made it less likely that she would see she was often making the wrong decisions in regards to the leadership of her team (she should’ve known she wasn’t the right leader from the start) and her friendship with Chanel.

Chanel is a dynamic character. She’s complex, driven (maybe sometimes a little too much?), and hard-working. She gets the short end of the stick far too often, but that usually just makes her work harder. She doesn’t let disappointment get in her way; when it tries, she’s able to refocus and continue on. I liked her character a lot; contrasted against Eleanor, who is a little flakier and nowhere near as driven, she felt like a strong role model.

I do wish we had seen more of what made the two girls friends in the first place. I never got a great sense of what drew them together and kept their friendship going. I did really like the information on concussions in the beginning, though. My son had two (mild) concussions during his teenage years; some kids are just more prone to them than others, but they can be really devastating, and I’m glad more attention is being paid to the seriousness of these brain injuries.

Fascinating look at racial injustice and how today’s social movements play out in high schools and among high school students. I enjoyed this one.

Visit Kimberly Jones’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

Visit Gilly Segal’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

fiction

Book Review: Miracles and Menorahs by Stacey Agdern

Representation matters. By now, anyone with half a brain understands this. It’s nice to be able to see parts of who we are on screen, in the pages of a book, in whatever media we consume. I always enjoy learning of new (or new-to-me; I’m often behind in just about everything) Jewish fiction, because seeing characters casually discuss the same holidays I celebrate, or approaching a difficult situation with a mindset they learned from the Jewish influences in their lives just makes my heart sing. I was happy to learn about Miracles and Menorahs by Stacey Agdern (Tule Publishing Group, 2020), and even happier to find it on the shelves of my library.

Sarah Goldman is second in command on the board of her small town’s Hanukkah festival (yup, you read that right!), a tradition that’s been going on for many years, but some people in the town want changes. More red, more green, more trees…boy, is this sounding familiar. But Sarah’s determined to keep the festival all Hanukkah, and for that, she’s going to need something special, like a giant menorah (how they didn’t already have one of these already kind of baffled me…). But where could she possibly find one of those so late in the game?

Enter Isaac Lieberman, metal artist and grandson of one of the town’s most beloved members. He’s single, good-looking, talented…and 100% against any kind of commercialization of Hanukkah, so making a giant menorah for Sarah’s festival is definitely not on his list of priorities. Bummer. But as he and Sarah spend more time together and Isaac gets to know the town where his bubbe lives, he may just change his mind…about a lot of things.

This is a very sweet Hanukkah romance – there’s no more action than a few chaste kisses, so if you avoid anything hotter than a bell pepper, you’ll be okay picking up Miracles and Menorahs. It’s basically a Hallmark movie in book form.

The ups: Jewish representation. SO much rep. Most of the town is Jewish (which makes a few of the board members cranky to suddenly find their holiday in the minority; the whole situation is shades of @JewWhoHasItAll on Twitter, a great follow!), and Jewish foods and rituals are discussed without needing much explanation, which is pretty awesome. I love seeing that in books. The small town is, for the most part, incredible in the way that small towns only are in books (I’m from a small town. In reality, it’s snobbery, gossip, arrogance, bigotry, hypocrisy, and hatred with a cute downtown. It breaks my heart, really), and the bookstore where Sarah works is charming.

The downs: I wanted to like this a lot more than I did. I found the writing a bit stilted, there wasn’t nearly enough action to keep me interested, and I felt like the book could have benefitted from a stronger editor (overuse of certain words, stronger action, heavier on the drama). What drama did exist in the book felt…boring, some of it (Isaac’s mother, especially) felt overdone and a little unrealistic, and to be honest, I had a hard time finishing the book. I will say that I prefer my fiction to be written in first-person; this is written in third, and I have a harder time connecting to that, so some of my issues connecting with this book are definitely mine, because plenty of other people have enjoyed it.

Miracles and Menorahs is part of a series. I’m disappointed that I don’t feel enough of a connection to the book or the characters to continue on with the other books, but if this sounds like something you’re interested in picking up, you’re in luck that there are several books beyond this one.

Visit Stacey Agdern’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

fiction · middle grade

Book Review: Repairing the World by Linda Epstein

There have been so many great Jewish middle-grade books out lately, and I haven’t been able to let many of them slip by me without them ending up on my TBR. And I was lucky enough to snag a copy of Repairing the World by Linda Epstein (Aladdin, 2022) on a recent library trip. It was just sitting there happily on the new books shelf when I walked by, and into my bag it went!

CONTENT WARNING: Child death.

Daisy and Ruby have been best friends all their lives. They’re inseparable, doing everything together, complementing each other perfectly and being able to finish each other’s sentences. They’re looking forward to starting middle school together in the fall, beginning their journey to growing up, when the unthinkable happens, and Daisy is left alone to face the future and grow up without her best friend.

Grief weighs heavily on her, and Daisy finds it difficult to even speak about what happened. Two new friends – Avery, a science-minded girl who appears in many of Daisy’s classes, and Mo, a boy from Hebrew school and her regular school, whose mother is suffering from breast cancer – appear on the scene, helping her to crawl at least a little out of the shadows that Ruby’s death have left behind, but Daisy still continues to shove her grief down. But grief and pain can’t stay buried forever, and when they erupt in Daisy like a volcano, she’s going to have to figure out how to fix the damage her hurt caused.

At times in the beginning, I felt like the writing got a little clunky and awkward, but where Repairing the World really shines is both in its descriptions of grief, and in the deep understanding Daisy’s new friends show her. The descriptions of grief are heavy, but they’ll seem familiar to anyone who’s struggled with loss. It’s not just emotional, it’s physical as well, and survivor’s guilt is very, very real. Daisy is tasked with carrying a lot, and Ms. Epstein really nails how difficult this all is for a tween.

Avery and Mo are exceptional characters. Avery is spunky and analytical, with a personality not unlike that of Ruby, but different enough that she really sparkle. Mo, struggling with his own pain, provides support and a way for Daisy to begin processing her loss. Aunt Toby, home to help Daisy and Daisy’s heavily pregnant mother, also serves to give Daisy some breathing room and new ways to move forward in a life she never expected. The supporting cast in this book are phenomenal and provide a wonderful scaffolding for Daisy and her grief.

This book contains Bridge to Terabithia-levels of anguish; if your middle grader is especially sensitive for any reason, check in with them if this is something they express interest in reading. It might be tough for them; on the other hand, Repairing the World might make them feel not so alone, especially if they’re dealing with loss and grief (and we all know, far too many kids are struggling with that these days. Tough as it is, this book is SO necessary). Daisy’s hurt is almost palpable; Ms. Epstein’s portrayal of what that kind of pain looks and feels like is absolutely commendable, and I think a lot of hurting kids will be able to relate.

Repairing the World will squeeze your soul, and my hopes are that it will provide comfort to kids who see themselves in the story, and understanding and enlightenment for kids fortunate enough not to see their own journey in Daisy’s.

Follow Linda Epstein on Twitter here.

fiction

Book Review: The Outside World by Tova Mirvis

A while back, I learned about Tova Mirvis and became interested in reading her books. I started with her memoir, The Book of Separation, and I loved it, so I was curious as to what her fiction looked like. I was able to get a copy of The Outside World (Vintage, 2004), and I was hooked on the first page. I am 100000000000% in now for reading everything she’s ever written, and I don’t say this about many authors. (And y’all know I don’t read heaps of fiction, so this is HUGE.)

Tzippy Goldman has been dreaming of her wedding day since she was a child. Marriage is a huge deal in her Orthodox Jewish community, and the discussion of and planning for her eventual wedding was a bonding point between Tzippy and her mother, a woman who only became Orthodox as an adult and who is always grappling to fit in and achieve a higher social status. But now that she’s in her early 20’s and still single, Tzippy’s thisclose to becoming an old maid, and her mother’s panic is grating on her. Off to Israel for a year of study and to hopefully get some space, she finally meets – or re-meets a childhood friend, Bryan, who now goes by Baruch, and the two quickly become inseparable.

Baruch’s parents are stressed to the hilt over their son’s metamorphosis from a sports-loving, Columbia-bound teenager into this black hat-wearing, strictly observant young man. It’s causing some definite friction at home, and both parents fear for his future and begin to question their own commitment to their family traditions. As Baruch and Tzippy begin to build their life together, all back home is definitely not well, and the pressures of the community will wear on everyone.

My goodness, this was an utterly fascinating look into the stress of an insular Orthodox Jewish community. Different levels of observance, the pressure to marry, the insane pressure to follow community norms, the gossip, the subtle – and not-so-subtle – demands to go with the flow or be ostracized, the gossip, all of it makes for interesting and complex characters who are struggling to find themselves and where they fit in within the confines of a restrictive society. The Outside World is narrated by multiple characters (my favorite!); Ms. Mirvis does an absolutely incredible job at showing varying commitments to observance, what changing observance looks like, and the confusion, the thought processes, and the stress it takes to navigate such changing waters.

I truly enjoyed all of this. I loved the look into the community, the questioning, Baruch’s increased observance versus his father’s dwindling desire to remain observant, versus his mother’s foray into the more mystical aspects of Judaism. I loved Shayna’s desperate attempts to do anything and everything she could to gain status in the community and Tzippy’s increasing frustration with her.

The Outside World definitely assumes a level of familiarity with Orthodox Judaism, so if you’re going to pick this up (and you should!) and there’s something you don’t understand, ask your Jewish friends (*waves*) or go check out My Jewish Learning and do a search there. They’re an excellent resource for all things Jewish.

Loved, loved, loved this book, and now I’m super excited about reading the rest of Tova Mirvis’s fiction!

Visit Tova Mirvis’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.