Saturday, February 7, 2009
The Ladies Auxiliary by Tova Mirvis
The Ladies Auxiliary by Tova Mirvis was a very interesting read. The story is set in Memphis, Tenessee where a community of Orthodox Jews has existed and even thrived for the last 100 years. It seems an unlikely place to find such a community but the people who live there are very proud of what they have built, a community that includes a shul, a school, a kosher grocery story and even a kosher restaurant. Underneath the seemingly idyllic circumstances there does exist some discontent, but for the most part everyone deals with the hand they've been dealt and they keep the peace. The story is told in the collective voice of the women of this Jewish community, the Ladies Auxiliary, and it begins with Batsheva moving into their midst. Batsheva is a convert to Judaism and after her husband died, she and her young daughter, Ayala, decide to move to the place where her husband had been raised. The Ladies Auxiliary is all about how the free-spirited Batsheva shakes things up.
I really enjoyed this book. I was very interested in learning more about the beliefs and traditions of Orthodox Jews. Since the story is told by the women of this community there is a lot about the food and the preparing for Shabbos and all of the many different Jewish holidays. I found it all so interesting but the best part was the portrayal of the different characters and the relationships in this tight-knit religious community. I also live in a religious community and the parallels and similarities are both funny and sad. Mirvis is a straight shooter and doesn't gloss over the shortcomings of this kind of community. This novel sheds both a positive and negative light on the community and I really appreciated that. It is funny and heartwarming in one sense and thought provoking and serious in another. I definitely recommend this book, especially to those who are religious in any way. It's an eye opener.
Review: 4/5 stars
Category: Literary fiction
Published: 1999, 311 pages