Monday, July 15, 2013

The Seven Blessings
Via Little Women, 1994
As per Bad4's recommendation, I took out Ruchama King's The Seven Blessings from the library
What I liked about it is that it didn't try to white-wash the petty, nasty side of human nature, especially when it comes to dating. The narcissistic single man, who belittles his dates and spends the evening checking out the hotter woman at the next table, while it isn't pretty, it's real

The characters have their moments of questioning, of doubt, but there is a discussion that takes place that provides a new way of looking at Hashem that I hadn't considered before. It's not only about lonely souls, it's about lonely religious souls, and how they choose to react to the situations they find themselves in. 

Everyone, and I mean everyone, are shown as all too human, and in need of progress, which is certainly refreshing. Even the thick bachelor who is on the search for the "perfect" woman finally comprehends the error of his ways. 

The married individuals in the tale provide a realistic view of wedded "bliss"; marriage does require effort and work to keep it healthy and fulfilling. King's shadchanim, married but not necessarily happily, reflect that true contentment and satisfaction begins from within, not through another.  

I had read other books by non-Jewish publishing houses that really got our world wrong, and this is certainly more familiar than anything else I had come across, like The Outside World by Tova Mirvis (which I ended up skimming since I didn't find it ringing true). A baalas teshuva took her to task in the NY Times for her inaccuracies, while Mirvis defended herself on the basis that since it is fiction, it doesn't have to be accurate. Yeah, lady, it does. When I read a book about Mongolian shepherds, I go around quoting it because I expected the author to have enough respect for other cultures that he would make a point to do his research and represent the society accurately. 

King managed to describe our practices without over-explaining. Sometimes I fantasize about writing a novel about the frum world but three words in see footnotes in my mind's eye. She gives me hope that that won't be necessary.  

Until the last page, I was unable to put this book down, an amazing feat in itself as I usually need a break, even with novels that I like. 

I had loaned my purchased copy to a middle-aged man who claims to be quite discerning, and he adored it as well, calling it "charming." Having received his blessing, I heartily recommend this tale of not only love, but of faith, and the human desire to change for the better. 


Sporadic Intelligence said...

We work in opposite ways. I don't believe anything I read about different cultures (or take it with a HUGE grain of salt) because I've yet to read a book, or see a movie/tv episode that accurately portrayed Ultra Orthodoxy. If nobody can get us right, why should anyone get anything else accurately.

As for fiction - a lot of it is glorified or made up...which some times leads to reality. I didn't go to public school, but I have this vague notion of how it works based on all the books I read. At least I thought I did until I read an article that explained that a lot of the social interactions that are written in books are no a reflection of reality, but of the authors imagination. However, because people learn social protocol and practice through vicarious learning, what was being portrayed in novels and movies, was becoming the reality of how children and teenagers were acting. (This article focuses more on the dating scene, how boys asked girls out, etc)

I also would love to write a Jewish novel that doesn't suck...and that doesn't need extensive footnotes...we'll far not :)

Humorist said...

Ah yes, I recall a large part of the "Tova Mirvis controversy" was about whether she covered her hair... apparently the woman who wrote the piece about Ortho chick lit (joke) for the NYT book review may have mentioned which authors covered and which didn't.

FYI, from googling it turns out Tova M. used to cover but doesn't anymore...

Princess Lea said...

SI: Oh, I am seriously gullible. Tell me something, and I'll believe you. Funnily enough, an episode of "House" that featured Lubavitchers was pretty non-laughable. One or two booboos, tops.

Here's to our dream, our non-sucky Jewish novel!

Humorist: Mirvis' ability to write an accurate portrayal of frum life would have nothing to do with covering her hair.