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Book Review: 'The Romance Reader'

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The Romance Reader

Current Status:
In Season
Pearl Abraham
Fiction, Romance

We gave it an A

No bath ing suits, sheer stockings, sleeveless dresses. No radio, TV, or library card. No singing. No dancing, or even shaking hands, with men. No college education. Ar ranged marriage at age 17 to a man you’ve barely met. When married, shave your head and wear a scratchy wig and kerchief. No birth control. No divorce. Rachel Benjamin, heroine and narrator of this remarkable first novel, is the rebellious oldest daughter of a Hasidic rabbi in upstate New York who manages to break all the prohibitions Orthodox Judaism imposes on ”sinning Eves.” She also paints a marvelously nuanced portrait of the family whose authority she rejects. Her father, holocaust survivor and holy dreamer, reads the psalms even while driving, but his fear of the neighbors’ gossip makes his daughters’ lives hell. Mother, a wrung-out, bitter woman, surprises with sudden flashes of tenderness. It’s the American way. You have to rebel and leave home to pay home the tribute it deserves. Abraham does it with great subtlety and warmth. A