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From a Sealed Room
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From a Sealed Room

3.0 3
by Rachel Kadish

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In this affecting, perceptive novel, Rachel Kadish reflects on the ghosts of the past, the tensions of war, and the difficult bonds of family. When Maya enrolls at Hebrew University in Jerusalem shortly after the Gulf War, she hopes to leave New York and a fraught relationship with her mother behind her. In Israel, she gets to know her older cousin Tami, a


In this affecting, perceptive novel, Rachel Kadish reflects on the ghosts of the past, the tensions of war, and the difficult bonds of family. When Maya enrolls at Hebrew University in Jerusalem shortly after the Gulf War, she hopes to leave New York and a fraught relationship with her mother behind her. In Israel, she gets to know her older cousin Tami, a housewife whose home has a room sealed against the war's Scud missile attacks. Like Maya, Tami feels distanced from the people closest to her -- her mother, her husband, her only son. But it will ultimately be Maya's visits with Shifra, an elderly recluse and Holocaust survivor who lives in the apartment below her, that give Maya the courage to confront her problems and break free of the burdens of her past.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A gifted writer, astonishingly adept at nuance, narration, and the politics of passion." --Toni Morrison

"Brilliantly braids history, religion, family, and eros. I was moved . . . and very impressed. --Russell Banks

"I am taken by the poignancy of its voice -- by its evocative imagery, too. I hope it reaches many homes and many hearts." --Elie Wiesel, author of Night

"A brilliant, funny, inspired, and courageous first novel from a gifted and psychologically wise young writer. . . . Kadish's characters have entered my life." --Carol Gilligan, author of The Birth of Pleasure

"From a Sealed Room is hauntingly beautiful -- a profound exploration of suffering, endurance, and the effort to heal. Here is an extraordinary new writer." --Brian Morton, author of A Window Across the River

"Every first novel should be like this one: deeply imagined, deeply felt, and -- as a result -- deeply involving." --Gish Jen, author of The Love Wife

"From a Sealed Room is politically astute, emotionally honest, and displays all the technical mastery of a mature writer." --Caryl Phillips, author of Dancing in the Dark

"From a Sealed Room is a passionate, seductive song that will echo in the reader's memory for years to come." --Susan Power, author of The Grass Dancer

"A tale of war and peace that moves us from Jerusalem to New York and back again . . . filled with vigorous and distinct voices and a generous, alert narrative intelligence." The San Francisco Chronicle

"What makes this book so rich and historically resonant is the skill and boldness with which Kadish weaves the intersecting stories of three women representing three generations." The Chicago Tribune

"A poignant and surprisingly powerful tale." Boston Globe

"An intense, ambitious story that explores the chasms between truth and falsehood, past and present." The New York Times Book Review

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Three women, each feeling hopelessly bound by a painful past, touch one anothers' lives in this wise, perceptive first novel. Leaving behind a troubled relationship with her mother in America, young Maya enrolls at Hebrew University in tense Jerusalem shortly after the Gulf War. There she spends time with her older cousin Tami, an Israeli whose distressed relationships with her husband and grown son have followed a difficult girlhood with an emotionally distant mother of her own. As Maya tells the story of her love affair with an abusive Israeli veteran haunted by memories of his tour of duty on the West Bank, Kadish interpolates lyrical, psalmlike passages spoken by the inner voice of Shifra, an aged recluse and concentration camp survivor living in the apartment below Maya's. Shifra comes to think of the American girl as a sort of Messiah who will save her from the tormenting memories of her tragic past--an apotheosis made all the more ironic by the glowing letters home that Maya writes to cover up the violent, complex relationship in which she is trapped. In the end, redemption for these characters lies in having the courage to exit the "sealed rooms" of their fears and memories. Only Shifra falls beneath the burden of her past, but not before her brief, intense visits with Maya ensure that her strong voice survives in the girl. Kadish draws her characters with fine compassion, psychological penetration and attention to detail. Editor, Faith Sale; agent, Gail Hochman; first serial to Bomb. (Oct.)
Library Journal
A family in Jerusalem shares a specially prepared room in their apartment, the sealed room that all Israeli households retreated to during the Iraqi scud attacks of the Gulf War. The room serves as a metaphor and backdrop for a series of crises--psychological, physical, emotional, and medical. Tami, an unfulfilled wife and mother, is estranged from her son Dov, who is in the army. It is only when Dov's best friend dies in a military mishap that mother and son connect. Other characters are trapped within the scourge of war, the memory of the Holocaust, and the quest for self in Israel. Maya, a fragile American student in need of emotional support, has an abusive relationship with Gil, an artist with serious psychological problems and a dishonorable discharge from the army. Shifra, an older woman, is beset by memories of prewar Poland and apocalyptic visions. All of Kadish's characters are connected by blood or proximity, and there doesn't seem to be an area of Jewish life overlooked; the concerns of both ultraorthodox and secular Jews enter the story as well. Although the women make choices and escape the confines of the metaphoric sealed room, too much is going on in this overly ambitious novel to recommend it for most readers.--Molly Abramowitz, Silver Spring, MD
Maggie Galehouse
...[E]xplores the chasms between truth and falsehood, past and present... -- The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
A first novel sets the youthful ordeals of Maya, an idealistic and somewhat imperceptive American student at Israel's Hebrew University, against both the historical and contemporary struggles of Western Jews.

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.82(d)

Meet the Author

RACHEL KADISH is the award-winning author of the novels From a Sealed Room and Tolstoy Lied: A Love Story, and the novella I Was Here. Her work has appeared on NPR and in the New York Times, Ploughshares, and Tin House. She lives in the Boston area. 

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From a Sealed Room 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
From A Sealed Room, we have all been there, Rachel Kadish takes you into the lives of 3 women, who need to open up and let go, to be their own person, you will not be able to put the book down, you are taken into each of their life's, you are in Israel, through these 3 women, you want to take them in your arms and hold them, to cry together, to live life, too laugh, to help erase the sorrow they hold with in them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If the Holicost survivor has a point to make she has failed with too much verbal rambling. Put the Sealed Room down to quit 3times and restarted trying to figure where it was going & why. Done now and still don't know.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is hard to plot and worse to read one story is enough write three books abd have them meet in a fourth