The Satmar Hasidic Jews of Williamsburg, Brooklyn believe they are God’s “chosen” people and any life worth living should be one devoted to God. All pursuit of self-happiness is discouraged as God gives them all they need.
This was the life Deborah Feldman was born into and the one she narrowly escaped from. It is, also, the one she so beautifully writes about in her novel, “Unorthodox”.
Living with her dutiful Grandmother and deeply religious Grandfather in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where the strict Hasidic community allows no contact with the outside world, Deborah is painfully aware of how different she is from the moment she is born.
With a Mother who abandoned her as a toddler and now lives her life as a “goy” to her Father, who was born with severely diminished mental capabilities, she is constantly embarrassed and always reminded of all her faults. Nothing she does is right and her extended family only relish in letting her know this every opportunity they get.
In school, Deborah is faced with the suffocating fact that education for Hasidic women is strictly relegated and reserved for only the subjects that will affect their lives; God, Jewish law (as it pertains to women) and being a good wife and Mother. In the face of this, or perhaps, because of it, Deborah is forced to hide those precious books that are strictly forbidden and her only source of enjoyment.
The only thing she looks forward to is getting married and the independence and freedom she believes must come with being the “woman of the house” and being able to pick your own furniture, linen and flatware.
In the end, it is her own body that will betray her in the cruelest and most personal way possible, leaving her unable to consummate, or forever enjoy, her own marriage.
Not believing like the rest of her people, that her unhappiness is deserved and what God wants, she is determined to escape and start life anew. With the birth of her son, she finds the strength to do what few in the Hasidic community have ever done; turn her back on everything and everyone she has ever known.
“Unorthodox” is a harrowing and completely fascinating look into a lifestyle few ever get to see. It is the story of one young woman’s desire to escape the repressive religion that threatens to destroy her. Beautifully written and told with the same passion, determination and realism of such books as, “The Chosen” and “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”, I wholeheartedly recommend this book to all women who have ever wanted more and were told they couldn’t have it and, anyone else interested in such a strictly forbidden and secretive society.
I hope you enjoyed my review of “Unorthodox” by Deborah Feldman. I definately recommend it to all my readers. If you did enjoy the review, please hit the subscribe button above to automatically receive all my future articles, reviews and interviews.
Coming up, I interview Deborah Feldman about “Unorthodox” and ask all the questions you wish you could. Also, look for my review of “Rub Out the Words, The Letters of William S. Burroughs” by Bill Morgan, “Wreck and Sinking of the Titanic”, a re-print from the original book published almost 100 years ago, and “Rolling Pennies in the Dark” by Douglas MacKinnon.
As always, for all things Anne Rice, check out the “Anne Rice Examiner” page. Don’t forget, if your an Anne Rice fan, look for my review of “The Wolf Gift”, her latest book, and pick up a copy if you can, it’s really great!
See ya next time!