Monday, February 9, 2009

Book Club Report: The Ladies Auxiliary

Book Club Report is a new feature I will be adding to my blog. I love book club. It is the thing that I look forward to more than anything else during the month. Since I love it so much I decided that I should make it a bigger part of Good Clean Reads. Every month after my book club meets, I will discuss the book more in depth and write about our discussion. This post will definitely contain spoilers so it's meant only for those who have read the book.

Book Club was held at Julie's house this month. As always, Julie prepared a great spread of food, with some traditional Jewish foods like latke (a pancake made of grated potatoes), bagels, and hamantaschen that Kerri brought. She had also prepared decidedly non-Kosher foods like the bacon-wrapped water chestnuts baked in a yummy sauce. We decided that Jews are really missing out.

After filling our plates, Julie, Kerri, Kristina, Christie, Sandy, and I began our discussion. I didn't take notes so I won't be able to remember everything but we did have an interesting conversation. Since we are all part of a tight-knit religious community like the characters in this book we could all identify with their experiences even though religion, traditions, and holidays are so vastly different. We are in fact a church-sponsored book club so even though we are LDS (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or Mormons) we belong to an organization called the Relief Society that could be compared to the Ladies Auxiliary. Though we agreed that these women where much more judgemental and critical than any of the ladies that we know, there are definitely similar patterns and behaviors in the women of our organization. Maybe we're kidding ourselves and there are women like Mrs. Levy or Tziporah in our midst. Even if there aren't any in our ward (the name of a congregation) I know that there are women in our religion who are similar. We decided that even though they come across as characters with serious flaws, Mirvis doesn't portray them as bad. All of the women in the book are trying to do what they think is right; their trying to live religiously in a world that is very different from their own. Some of them just have a misguided way of trying to help others be religious that comes off as offensive.

We talked about the Orthodox Jews. One of our members was a nanny in New York and saw many Orthodox Jews and actually nannied for a family in which the father was Jewish, although he wasn't Orthodox and only observed some holidays. The children she took care of went to a Hebrew preschool and they would come home on Fridays with a bag of candles and challah to use for Shabbos. Since the family didn't really do anything for Shabbos they would often eat the challah on the way home because they were hungry. It was interesting to us that they would send their children to a Hebrew school but they didn't really practice themselves--the mother wasn't even Jewish. But really, I can see how this father would want his children to know and learn about their heritage. Jews have a very long history and they are a proud people. They should be proud. They have withstood so much persecution for so long. They have kept their traditions for thousands of years, still waiting for the Messiah. That is an amazing legacy of faith. I admire them, yet feel sorry for them. Of course, I feel great sympathy for the horrific trials that they have born, but I also feel sorry that they have been waiting for so long for their Savior to come and have continued to follow what seem to me to be very antiquated laws that are often difficult to adhere to.

The characters in the book were so worried about their children and how to keep them religious. We talked about how difficult it would be to stay religious as an Orthodox Jew. They watch tv and movies and know a lot about popular culture but are required to keep a strict dress code and eat kosher which means no jeans and no cheeseburgers. Wow, it just seems so hard. Then we realized that many people probably view us (LDS) in the same way. We countered that with statements like, "We're not as restricted as they are," or "We don't feel deprived," or "Our faith makes it easier." They probably feel the same way. They may even think that we're more restricted. They may say, "The Mormons don't even drink coffee or wine. How do they do it?" It's pretty funny when you think about it.

One thing that got us laughing so hard was talking about the mikvah. The mikvah as quoted from the online dictionary is "a ritual bath to which Orthodox Jews are traditionally required to go on certain occasions, as before the Sabbath and after each menstrual period, to cleanse and purify themselves." We laughed as we pictured Batsheva going to the mikvah and how she used it like a little swimming pool, floating on her back and taking it all in. Finally Bessie, the attendant, who was thinking how inappropriate Batsheva was being said, "We don't have all night." We imagined that the mikvah was something like a baptismal font and thought about what it would be like if someone got in and acted like Batsheva. We thought it was hilarious but I know we each would have been horrified if someone did swim around in the baptismal font.

We had a great discussion but we did go off on tangents more than we normally do. I felt like there was still more to talk about when we all had to leave and that was a bit disappointing to me. I think we got off on tangents so often because this book reminded us so much of our own lives and brought to mind experiences and problems that we wanted to talk about.

Another great book club. I dearly love those women. I look forward to next month's The Alchemist.


Julie J. said...

I love, love, love this idea. And I loved reading a recap of then night. I too truly enjoy book club!!! I already can't wait for next month.

Suey said...

Love the idea of Book Club Report. I'll look forward to future installments!

I read this book too many years ago to remember anything to comment about. I remember I liked it though!

Seaside Book worm said...

I read this book with my Jewish Book Club. This community happens in every community. You have the gossips( in Hebrew-La hora), the controllers in every group. doesn't matter if you are Jewish or not. I really enjoyed this light read. But it does have a message in this book too. I am the moderator of my book club. I just stumbled on your blog, but I will visit often.

Sharon said...

Oh, I love this idea. I look forward to the next report.

Laura H said...

I just finished this book. Sounds like I had the same thoughts and feelings as your book club. How easily I could relate some of these "issues" to the LDS community.
I heard a talk the other day on the BYU channel about a women who after she was baptized, still did not feel like she fit in the church. Only after she wore a denim jumper dress to church did she feel she was accepted. As silly as that sounds I hope that I have never judged someone so superficially.
I was also was interested in Jewish traditions but I wish that the book would have had a glossary so I could check what some words meant.
Otherwise very good book

percy said...

You have posted a very interesting article. Keep it up!

Good Books To Read.