Read The Romance Reader by Pearl Abraham Online


From Publishers Weekly:Abraham shows strong talent in her debut novel, the story of a young girl's coming-of-age in an ultraorthodox Hasidic home. The reader soon cares deeply about narrator Rachel, the eldest of six children, who yearns for some of the forbidden fruits of the secular world. Her rebbe father is another endearing character; he dreams of establishing a majorFrom Publishers Weekly:Abraham shows strong talent in her debut novel, the story of a young girl's coming-of-age in an ultraorthodox Hasidic home. The reader soon cares deeply about narrator Rachel, the eldest of six children, who yearns for some of the forbidden fruits of the secular world. Her rebbe father is another endearing character; he dreams of establishing a major synagogue and learning center even while he desperately looks for a 10th man for a minyan for his sparse congregation. Most of the story takes place in a suburban community that receives an influx of Hasidim in the summer months; for the rest of the year, the rebbe's family is the neighborhood curiosity. Rachel is a dutiful child who tries hard to please her mother, an angry woman who belittles her husband's dreams and wants to be part of one of Brooklyn's larger Hasidic enclaves. Rachel's glimpses of the larger world come from casual and often uncomfortable encounters with non-Jews and secular Jews in her town, but especially from romance novels, which she reads secretly. Her seemingly flagrant behavior (she refuses to wear seamed, opaque stockings, opting instead for seamless, and will not wear a cover-up over her bathing suit while teaching young girls to swim) brings shame to her family and endangers a marital opportunity for her brilliant younger brother. Despite her resolve to establish a more independent life, Rachel agrees to an arranged marriage, both to make her family happy and as a first step toward a new existence. When this match goes awry, Rachel's solution is both funny and bittersweet. Abraham's intense, sensitive prose and her ability to create vivid scenes and memorable characters augment this authentic, often disturbing, look at Hasidic home life and beliefs. Literary Guild featured alternate; author tour....

Title : The Romance Reader
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781573225489
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 304 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Romance Reader Reviews

  • M
    2019-01-29 10:05

    Maybe there is something wrong with me. Maybe I need to stop telling my students how to write well. Because for the life of me I do not understand how people thought this book was "so well written." It was???Was it the contrived and not at all believable dialog? Was it the very unlikable characters, from over the top melodramatic threatening suicide in front of the kids with a kitchen knife matriarch to incredibly juvenile protagonist? Was it the jumping from thought to thought without any actual connection? Was it the constant whining? What???This novel had some interesting points, albeit poorly executed (in my opinion, at least) - it portrays an eldest daughter in a chasidishe family (and though this is the author's background a lot of things rang false to me) who loves romance novels and therefore finds it all the more unbearable to function in her ascetic life. So I get that, but the novel didn't really explore that, or at least not in a subtle way - everything in this book was shot at me directly, there was little if anything left to the imagination (ie, 'but I wanted my life to be like a novel' etc ... ohhh now I get it) - and in the meantime the bulk of the novel consisted of kids plotting, at times ridiculously, to get away with all sorts of antics from their micro managing and rather obnoxious mother. There was little if any sympathy to be had for any of the characters, and there was no sense of pacing or time in this work, people just sort of turn around and age. The ending is rather abrupt after dragging along for pages about all sorts of mundane incidents. I just found myself thinking, So??? So what??? Stop whining about wanting a library card and wishing your parents would die in a plane crash you big baby. It just seemed that the lack of sophistication on the part of the protagonist was a little too deeply felt in the writing. I think some more dimension would have worked here. A rather painful read, or a mindless one, depending on the page.

  • nettebuecherkiste
    2019-02-15 10:02

    Deutscher Titel: Die RomanleserinSprecherin: Suzanne TorenDauer: 9 h 12 min, ungekürztRachel Benjamin wäre gerne ein ganz normaler Teenager. Doch als älteste Tochter eines chassidischen New Yorker Rabbis bleibt ihr vieles verwehrt. Unter anderem muss sie englischsprachige Literatur heimlich lesen, welch ein Skandal wäre es, wenn die Tochter eines Rabbis englische Bücher lesen würde!Der Buchtitel ist ein wenig irreführend, Bücher und die Welt in Büchern, die Rachel verwehrt bleiben, spielen zwar eine wichtig Rolle, sind jedoch nur ein Aspekt, der Rachels Leben anders macht als das eines “normalen” amerikanischen Teenagers. Ihre Kleider müssen die Ellenbogen bedecken, sie muss dicke, undurchsichtige Strumpfhosen unter den Kleidern tragen, sie darf – um Himmels willen – beim Schwimmen keinen Badeanzug tragen. Und wenn sie mit 16 die Schule abschließt, wird von ihr erwartet, dass sie sich möglichst bald verheiraten lässt.Die erste Hälfte des Buchs hat mir wirklich sehr gut gefallen. Der Einblick in die chassidische Kultur ist sehr interessant, die Charaktere, unter anderem die aufbrausende Mutter und der stoische Vater bringen den Leser häufig zum Schmunzeln. Rachel ist hin- und hergerissen zwischen ihrer Familie und ihrem Wunsch, den Restriktionen ihrer Herkunft und ihrer Kultur zu entkommen. Sie malt sich alles Mögliche aus, das passieren könnte, doch letztlich findet sie nicht den Mut, wirklich offen zu rebellieren, sie tut es nur heimlich. Was natürlich nicht immer gut geht. Als es Zeit für die Ehe wird, sieht Rachel nur einen Weg, der ihr ein normales Leben ermöglichen könnte…Und dieser letzte Teil des Romans hat dazu geführt, dass ich das Buch doch nicht so gut bewerten kann. Denn hier habe ich den Kontakt zu Rachel verloren: Ich konnte ihr Handeln nachvollziehen, aber es gefiel mir nicht, sie wurde mir unsympathisch und das Ende des Buchs habe ich dann als unbefriedigend empfunden. Dennoch ein lesenswertes Buch, vor allem, wenn man sich für das Leben orthodoxer Juden in Amerika interessiert.Die Sprecherin Suzanne Toren liest genau im richtigen Tempo, mit viel Ausdruck und ironischem Unterton.

  • Muh-ching Yee
    2019-02-05 12:18

    If you want the woman's view of life in an Ultra-Orthodox community, kind of like the view from the sisters of the rebbe, you should read this book. It's familiar in so many ways to the stifling Confucian limits on Chinese women, and its description of a girl trying to get away from her loving family, who want the best but within their limited view of life is universal.

  • Lisa Nelson
    2019-02-12 10:06

    I was drawn to this book after my daughter asked for recommendations from a list of books that the 9th grade English teachers put together for summer reading. As an avid reader this kind of list is pure gold. I had read several books on the list, but after reading a quick synopsis of, "The Romance Reader," I knew it was the first one that I wanted to check out. I read, "My Name is Asher Lev," by Chaim Potok a few years ago and really enjoyed it. I thought this might be the female equivalent of a coming of age story for a Hasidic Jew. Some of the tensions of being a very religious family and raising a teenage daughter are very real over here. I enjoyed much of the book especially the sweet relationship between the sisters, and loved learning more about the Hasidic Jewish community. My biggest problem with the book, (and here is where I have clearly crossed over into the parent zone) is that the parents were so one demential. I had trouble believing that even though they were very strict that there were not many, if any tender moments and interactions between the parents and children. Real life is way more complicated. It was very easy to dislike these parents even when I was wanting to pull for them, I'm on their side. Also, the main character Rachel seems very immature for a 15-17 year old. I expect more out of a young lady that was raised with good morals and values. Oh no, see, I have clearly become a grown up! I felt for Rachel at times, but overall I just wanted more maturity from her and definitely more depth from both parents. It was still an interesting read and worth picking up, but I recommended a couple for different ones for my daughter and I'm glad I did.

  • melydia
    2019-01-31 16:14

    Rachel is the teenaged daughter of a rabbi in a cloistered Hasidic community. She's quite the rebel: she gets a library card, reads romance novels, wears sheer stockings, goes out without a kerchief, and wants to wear a swimsuit while working as a lifeguard (as opposed to an ankle-length dress). This book would have been much less frustrating had the rest of the family been more sympathetic. Everyone was so spiteful and self-centered, ready to sell out their kin in an instant to make themselves look good in front of the neighbors. It was frankly sickening. The ending was moderately uplifting, but by that point I was so tired of the petty bickering that I was just ready for it to be over. It was interesting to learn a little bit about Orthodox Jewish customs, such as the various things they cannot do during Shabbat and their wedding rituals, but mostly I wanted to take everyone in this family by the shoulders and give them a good shake.Note: All comments in this review refer exclusively to the characters and situations in this novel. None of my comments are meant to apply to Hasidic culture or the Jewish community in general.

  • Meredith
    2019-02-21 15:23

    I'm a bit disappointed by this novel. The title seemed to promise more, and I was hoping for more of a connection between the protagonist, Rachel, and her romance novels. No such luck. Aside from the romance novel, the teenage Rachel seemed quite whiny, argumentative, and immature for her age (15 in the middle of the story). For a girl that knew marriage was probable at a young age (17/18) she had a lot of growing-up to do. The progression in the story (including the final event) was unbelievable and seemed to jumble up many thoughts and emotions at once (I had to re-read passages twice to make sure I hadn't missed anything).

  • Kalen
    2019-02-22 17:07

    I liked this book a lot--more than I ended up liking Unorthodox. Curiously, they're very similar, though Romance Reader was written nearly 15 years ago. This one is better written, and ultimately, more believable--though it is fiction and Unorthodox is non-fiction. There's a part of me that can help but wonder if Feldman didn't borrow liberally from Abraham's book, though it is also possible that there are certain commonalities and realities that make the two stories so similar. I'm guessing I'll never know.

  • Shelly
    2019-02-04 18:27

    The good:~ As always, it was interesting to learn about other cultures~ I enjoyed Rachel's rebelliousness and Leah's level-headedness~ It was a good portrayal of teenage frustrationThe not-so-good:~ I occasionally found myself wishing I had a Yiddish dictionary so I knew exactly what the author was talking about~ I was not always aware of the passing of time and was sometimes surprised to learn that years had gone by (i.e. suddenly baby Esther is 5 years old)

  • MaryannC.Book Fiend
    2019-01-26 18:00

    I love this book! I have read it about 3 times now and I will go back again. This is a wonderful story of a young Hasidic girl who is strongly encouraged to marry and follow the customs of her faith, but, she longs to experience life on the outside of what her family and community expects of her.

  • Becky
    2019-02-02 16:24

    Quick overview: This is a story about Rachel, a teenage girl growing up in a Hasidic Jewish community in New York. She's struggling with what she wants to do and what her faith and her parents will let her do. She secretly reads goyish (non-Jewish) books, and dreams of having a life doing more than her mother who has seven kids. The author takes you through her inner turmoil with what she wants to do, what she's allowed to do, and what she thinks is expected of her.I actually don't like the title of this book. I know, I know, don't judge a book by its cover, but the title gives you the impression it's a romance novel and it's not that at all. Rachel is quite the rebel - I immediately like her. Her father only wants her to read Jewish books, so she sneaks getting a library card, and sometimes even steals books from stores and other people's homes in order to read "normal" books, most of which are romance novels. That's the only part of romance that really comes into play.The book is broken up into three parts - I liked all of them, but once I got to the second part I thought it was a lot easier to read and flowed better. However, for as much as Rachel rebelled, I felt like the end of the book was building to a really big rebellion and in a way it did (I don't want to give anything away), but then the story ended. I was hoping to see more of her life after she makes a few decisions, and what exactly she was planning to do, but the story just stopped. I guess the point is that she made some decisions for her. However, for as long as it took for the story to pick up momentum, I thought the ending was almost a letdown.I did like the story - and the author grew up in a Hasidic community so there were definitely times during this story when I was wondering if this was loosely based on her life. Overall I would recommend this to read, but know it takes awhile to get into it.

  • Tal179
    2019-02-15 10:10

    Wow. Great book. Certain parts I completely related to, being raised religious, others I unfortunately recognized from the schools I was sent (which were more extreme than home), while others were so extreme and shocking to read about. Pearl Abraham's writing, seemingly simple, is profound, raw, and honest. You can really feel the protagonist Rachel's continuous struggle, her guilt and rage and despair... This book was kind of hard to get through at times, realizing how these children are raised with such restriction, manipulation and control, not allowed to express their individuality, have basic rights to privacy and access to knowledge. Women in this society are automatically at a disadvantage, much more so than in other cultures; their whole lives, they are controlled by either father or husband, not allowed to make their own decisions, and forced to be ashamed of and hide their femininity. Rachel has no choice but to marry, take a path she does not want, because it's her only hope of escaping the life she's born into, but still she cannot escape. Not only is she living in a suffocating society, her home specifically is torture to live in, with a bitter mother who threatens to leave her family constantly, even threatens to kill herself, in front of her young children, and with an immature, hypocritical father. This family lives with the curse of caring what people will think, what people will say... The Romance Reader exposes the crisis of the many young children raised with this lifestyle, criticizes the values of this culture, and raises many questions. Thought provoking and deep.

  • Karen
    2019-01-24 10:01

    The Romance Reader By Pearl Abraham This novel is told by Rachel Benjamin. It is the mid 1970's. She is one of seven children growing up just outside NYC in a chassidic family. She is the eldest, the most rebellious and most curious. She loves her family dearly and shares all her dreams with her sister Leah. But Rachel admits "This is why people shouldn't read." She and Leah read voraciously. They steal, borrow and secretly obtain a library card. They live in worlds outside of their own through these books. In their community this is not allowed. They are not to read English books and admire the lives of non Jews. But they do. And as Rachel approaches 17, the age where girls are matched and married off to start their own families, she questions everything she is intended to be and loses herself in the process. These feisty spirited girls are enjoyable characters and this novel is a pleasure to read. The girls remain in the readers mind long after the book ends. Highly recommend.

  • Denise Rawling
    2019-02-22 16:23

    A fascinating look into a culture I know nothing about, one reason to read I think, to walk a little in the shoes of others. Despite the tensions and rebellion there is humour, warmth and love in this intriguing and sometimes painfully honest book. Despite finding so much to chafe her enquiring and growing spirit, the main character Rachel often finds space to admire or at least empathise with her parents. Some awkwardness sometimes perhaps in the writing but still a fine portrait of the wild swings of adolescence with confusion and frustration jostling rebellion and conformity. She breaks strict rules with a frank practicality and fearlessness, alternating between maturity and childishness as she finds her own path.

  • Shari
    2019-02-03 10:04

    Rachel Benjamin is the teenage daughter of a visionary Hasidic Rabbi living in upstate New York in the 1960s and she is strongly resisting her insular environment and strict upbringing. Rachel’s struggle climaxes when, at the age of 18, she agrees to marry a Hasidic man in the naive hope that maybe it will bring her some independence and freedom. I found the end of the book disappointing – not just because of Rachel’s own disappointments but because it felt unfinished.

  • Gina
    2019-02-12 18:18

    This was an intriguing look into the life of a girl raised in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. Fascinating on many levels and one is pulled in in anticipation of what direction Rachel will follow. Not the ending that I hoped for, but a good read nonetheless.

  • Julie Akeman
    2019-01-30 12:23

    I'm a romance reader, picky on what romances I read but I do read them..of course I'm not forbidden to like the young lady in this novel, having a strict Jewish order to follow, I do feel for her. I got nagged by my mom when she became a Christian (after I became one before her) she telling me that what I was reading wasn't very Christian, it was fantasy, I still read fantasy, and I love Harry Potter and Tolkien (who was a stanch Catholic by the way and you can see his references if you know what you are looking for!) Rachel, the protaganast in this novel has to deal with an ultra nagging mom, a strict religious upbringing and she wants out of it. In reading her forbidden romances she longs for something more, an independent life, she didn't want to get married as was expected. I do love this book and I loved that this was such a different life to look into, my background in the ancestry is that one side of my family came from Jewish but I don't think they were that strict, reading the family lines you see them marrying into Christian families and it just got all watered down from there. This is a great coming of age novel and I did identify with the girl dispite different backgrounds, we have the same spirits, the need for personal independence, I can be rebellious too if you crunch me in.

  • Lindsey
    2019-02-22 11:05

    Spoilers are written because this is the way I keep track of what I've read: I had a hard time with the beginning of this book. Rachel is a very relatable character, and yet the culture was not something to which I could understand. It took a while for me to get used to the hassidic language and would have to stop and look up words, but I loved learning about this way religion. When I reached the part about Rachel getting to leave her home through marriage I started to love the book and her all that much more. She knew even from the start that she would not be married for long. I was beginning to thing that the author was going to make her see the way to be happy is to adjust her perceptions about life, but alas, she remained true to the end! I loved Rachel's tenacity and self-determination. It was wonderful the knowledge I gained from the stories and characters.

  • Miranda
    2019-02-08 18:17

    Another in my streak of reads about strong female characters who defy expectations to reach for their dreams and their futures with both hands. Rachel is from an orthodox Jewish family, but she constantly pushes her boundaries, starting with finding a way to get a library card even though her parents won't allow it. She learns to swim and becomes a lifeguard despite their objections, and even saves a life with the skills she learns. She is pushed into an arranged marriage, but at the end of the book we know that she is going to take her adult life into her own hands. I loved the voice of this book, intimate and irreverent, and really enjoyed the window into another culture and another life. Highly recommended!

  • Laura Atwood
    2019-02-04 12:07

    I read this book many years ago, enjoyed it, and found the descriptive information about the Hasidic community fascinating. ... Fast forward, and I just spent a week last month working very closely with women in the Hasidic community. I'm curious to read this book again, to see how it jibes with my experience of the community and the wonderful women I met.

  • Melanie
    2019-01-28 17:59

    I found this to be interesting but confusing. I wasn’t sure what was reality and what was her daydreams. I found Rachel to be disappointing and really only her mother evolved in the story. It was an easy read.

  • Marcia Shimshak
    2019-01-24 11:24

    I was disappointed from beginning to end. Certainly I expected it to get better as I continued reading or I wouldn't have put so much time into it.

  • Bookworm
    2019-01-24 12:27

    Well written. Unfortunately the story of life from a teenagers perspective did not grab me. Interesting to get an insiders (albeit a teenagers) view of a chassidic comunity.

  • Rosa
    2019-01-27 12:19

    "I look at him. I can't eat meat with eggs fried in butter. But on the griddle behind the counter, the eggs and the meat fry together and the cook is using the same spatula for both. I'll be eating the fat of the meat with my eggs anyway. Already I've turned the television on and off on Shabbat and ridden the elevator down to the lobby. Also, I'm carryin money. -page 291In for a penny, in for a pound. This is the dilemma when one decided to break just some rules. The other rules don't seem so worth keeping after that. I found this book very informative. Rachel was a girl with much spunk and some of that is to be expected in the youth. Did she break her parents' heart? Maybe so but keeping the curious mind at bay is not possible in most cases. Reading can be dangerous when the person is just not committed to their religion and their ways.

  • Sara Goldenberg
    2019-02-14 15:08

    I liked it. It was well written and interesting. The ending didn't seem terribly real to me ... and I'd like to know what happens next !!!

  • Sue
    2019-02-17 11:25

    This is a novel about a particular girl in a very particular setting but I also see it as a story of a typical teenager. Rachel is growing up isolated in suburban New York, one of seven children, the eldest daughter of a Hasidic would-be rabbi and his wife who is not too happy about her location or her husband's passion for building a synagogue. However, she demands conformity from her children. From the age of 12, as the story opens, Rachel fights both her parents on the Hasidic rules of appearance and behavior. In my liberal world, Rachel's rebellion would not be seen as extreme--she wears stockings but refuses to acquiesce to wearing the ones with seams, which would prove beyond a doubt that she is wearing stockings. She sneaks off to get a job as a lifeguard, which is not entirely unacceptable but her refusal to swim in a modest dress is a set up for a severe power struggle with her parents, especially when there is community gossip. The title refers to Rachel's addiction to romance novels. Before she manages to covertly get a library card she must steal books or clandestinely buy them with occasional money she receives and then hide them under her mattress.* Her only hope of freedom from her parents' tyranny is marriage but when she begins to realize that in arranged marriage, there no hope of finding the romance she reads about in her novels, she sees for the first time why reading has not been such a good idea.Of course I bring to these books my own baggage as a liberal convert via Reform Judaism. While I have a lot of respect and awe for Orthodox living, I have never had any desire to live an Orthodox life, myself and yet my husband and I joined the Jewish tribe in search of substance and structure that we felt we could not find within liberal Christianity. Eventually we brought our children into the tribe as well, and they have an ambivalent relationship with the extremely flexible version of Judaism in their lives. Compliance with parental values and rules is the exception, not the norm for teens. It is the developmental task of children is to gradually (and safely) separate from their parents. In a moment of extreme frustration, Rachel declares, "Life would be better without parents. By the age of twelve, human beings, like birds and other animals, should be able to separate from their parents. Why do people feel so sorry for orphans?" There are times when I wish I could just tell my kids "Be free, see how it goes!" And yet, morally, that would be a very dangerous thing to tell a 12 year old child. Some would say teens need parents as much, if not even more than toddlers.When Rachel does eventually separate herself from her parents, she reflects at the Shabbat dinner table "This is what I will miss when I go: the children at the table. Ma lighting candles. Father's kiddish." Such a push pull teenagers and their parents feel, beautifully rendered in this novel. The only reason I did not give it five stars was because I felt bogged down at times by the details, not all of which were necessary for forward momentum of the story. I think it would have been a better book with about 50 less pages.*What I want to know, after reading three books about young adult Hasidic rebellion in the last month, is why every Hasidic parent does not look under their kids' mattresses for contraband?!

  • Jaspreet
    2019-02-22 11:09

    I originally started this book because it was the selection for the library book club meeting. Between the time the book was picked and the discussion, I found out that I did not pass the bar and dove back into studying. I did not finish the book in time for the meeting and decided to not attend any more of those sessions until the exam was finished. However, once I started the book, I was hooked. While I am not very familiar with the particulars of the Hasidic faith, I identified and related to so much of the book. In particular the way that, the main character, Rachel fantasized about living a life that is different from tradition. I also empathized with her questions about identity and gender roles. As she gets older, she begins to question practices and traditions; I felt especially sympathetic to her constant wishing that things were different.Growing up in a fairly religious household and a pretty insular community, I often wished that I were able to live out the lives of characters I read about in books. In particular, I found myself wishing that I were one of the Sweet Valley High twins or at least in their social circle. Because of that experience (and probably because the book was so well written), I loved Rachel's observations about the differences between how men and women in her community interacted with each other compared with how others outside the community did. **Spoiler Alert**When Rachel agreed to get married, I was surprised. However, I found that the wedding ceremony and her marriage gave Rachel the chance to confirm that she wanted something else. It reminded me a little of the scene in the movie Bend it Like Beckham when the main character's sister says to her, "Don't you want this?" in reference to all the wedding festivities. The main character says, "I want more." << I am paraphrasing, so I may have gotten it wrong. Anyway...Rachel's longing for a partnership with her husband that reflects more of the connection her in-laws have with each other and the frustration she feels when her husband attempts to create a relationship similar to that of her parents was one of my favorite parts of the book. During the course of her marriage, she starts to get more clarity about what she does not want and gather courage to figure out what she does want. She takes a huge step in that direction by divorcing her husband. I wish that the book had continued with more of what happens to her as she moves away from the cultural norms of the community in which she was raised. In spite of wanting more of an ending, I still very much enjoyed the book.

  • Hailee
    2019-01-31 17:09

    I’m sorry that my first Goodreads review is for a book that I ended up loathing. Though, loathing is probably too strong a word in this case. I really just wholly disliked it. And it’s really a shame. I found this book while browsing through my library’s stacks and the premise sounding intriguing; an inside glimpse into the secretive world of Hasidic Jewish culture. We are quickly introduced to Rachel Benjamin and her world. She is the eldest of seven children with a dreamer father and manic depressive mother. They live in a small bungalow community in upstate New York where they are the sole residents during the off season. Rachel rebels against the constricting rules of Hasidic life by reading forbidden English romance novels instead Yiddish books, books she acquires by spending babysitting money, using her secretly obtained library card, or outright stealing. Both Rachel and her sister Leah take a lifeguard course which stirs up controversy in their community when the girls wear bathing suits. Through all this, we follow Rachel’s journey from adolescence to adulthood where she then has to deal with and impending engagement. I did not like Rachel at all. I found her pessimistic and whiny outlook on everything in her life frustrating. As an avid reader I've read plenty of novels with sullen main character and you learn to love them as they grow and develop in their story, but this is not the case here. By the end of the book I hated Rachel and did not pity her or her situation in the least. The other characters in this novel are flat and unlikeable. I wish the author would have spent more time explaining Hasidic life. There were several times I had to Google things to get a better understanding of what was going on or what was being talked about. I know the author comes from Hasidic life herself and all of that is second nature, but this book wasn't written for a Hasidic audience. I also wish the author would have made deeper connections to Rachel and the romance novels she read. I wish Rachel’s love of these romance novels and the heroines they portray would have shaped the outcome of the novel instead of just being a red herring. When it comes down to it, Rachel carried a lot of hate towards her family and friends, and the lives they lived, and the lifestyle they embraced. But she did nothing about her hatred and misery and she got the crappy, poorly executed ending she deserved. I did not care for the author's writing style, stilted dialogue, and choppy pacing. Overall, I'm sad I wasted three days on this book and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. I will be keeping my eye out for better fiction that covers Hasidic life.

  • Estephania
    2019-02-17 14:05

    There was a lot of great details about the Hasidic lifestyle that I appreciated. Books are written to learn from, so when you read fiction you are learning about human emotions and lives. In that sense, the book was great, but I could not really give it higher than two stars because it was lacking some important things.The book is not unreadable; it just left me feeling unsatisfied. There was just so many awkward things about the book; why is it broken up in parts? why is the ending so vague? what does her "going away" mean at the end? The book is very good at capturing the situation and the emotions that a girl goes through when you come from a culture that views women as representations of men, so they must be modest and obedient. The author touched on aspects of women's lives that are out of their control: their dress, their education, their ideas, their future, their choices in marriage. I am very happy that I read a book that, I believe, thoroughly sets up and demonstrates how women's lives are always pushed towards conformity for the happiness of others and not their own. Any western man put in such a position as Rachel is put would feel his rights and his humanity were taken away. Yet every single person in Rachel's life acts as if she were the strange one for wanting different. The star system is confusing for me with this book. I enjoyed so many parts of it, but I cannot put it above so many other books on my list of favorites. Please read the book if you are interested in reading about women who grow up in different cultures and their struggles. Read it to know how it feels for a person to grow up without options or choices. Read it to learn the Psyche of being in two cultures that are opposite and learning to find a balance. Read it for a glimpse at someone else's life. If you are interested in any of the above topics I recommend 'Purple Hibiscus' as well.

  • Laura
    2019-01-30 18:18

    I was given this book in a professional development workshop on how book clubs work my second year of teaching. It was the first book which I ever read which was good enough to convince me that modern realistic books could be worth reading (before The Romance Reader I was strictly historical and science fiction). I uncovered it recently as I was going through some old boxes from my first years of teaching and decided to give it a re-read.It's just as compelling now as it was then. The novel only covers the narrator's life from age 14-16. During that time she gets her first jobs, marries, divorces, and struggles to find herself. She doesn't know what she wants but she knows what doesn't want. She doesn't even know how to find what she wants. Her life is so narrow and restrictive that she doesn't know how to find it. So she reads and struggles.I understand her feelings. While my life wasn't quite as restrictive, my life was laid out for me. I was lucky enough to have family who understood that I wanted something different from theirs; unfortunately, they didn't know how to do anything else either. They're still struggling. I definitely connected with the narrator.I love the use of present tense. It drew me into the story. At times, I was confused by the narration such as when she feel into daydreams and fantasies.I also felt sorry for Israel. He was glad that he'd gotten out of yeshiva because he was tired of being told what to do. Then he marries and his father-in-law, grandfather-in-life, and wife all tell him what to do. I wondered if his nosebleeds were symptomatic of a health issue or of a life immeasurably stressed by all the demands placed on him. Maybe he didn't know how to get out of his carefully laid out life either.This is a great beach read. It pulled me into a world that I didn't know existed: the world of the ultraconservative Jew in the US.

  • V H
    2019-02-06 17:10

    Another library book. I picked it because I though the title sounded promising, like maybe it would give me more ideas for books to read, as if I need any!The book is about Rachel and her life as a teenager as a Hasidic Jew. She wants to be more independent than what she is, and she always finds new ways to "rebel". Rachel basically seems like any other teenager: the hating of parents, and rule-breaking. I could kind of sympathize with her through most of the book, but not at all in some places, and not just because of our difference in upbringing.My favorite part of the book was when the mother and father went away for a while. It was kind of exciting to see what would happen, and I was nervous all the time that something bad would happen, and at the same time I was looking forward to reading what would happen when the parents came back.I don't really know much about the different types of Jews. I think at school we've learned more about the general religious views, and about Jews during the Second World War, and not much else. So it was interesting to read about this world I don't know anything about. I didn't know what a lot of the Jewish words meant, and since I read a lot of the book in my lunch breaks at work, I couldn't really look them up, but I understood most of them from the context, and some others I looked up online when I got home. The book was okay. It was interesting to read about a different way of living, but it wasn't so exciting that it held my attention. For such a small book (296 pages) it took me a long time to finish, because whenever I put it down I wasn't in a "hurry" to pick it back up again to find out what happened next.