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Giving up America
     

Giving up America

by Pearl Abraham
 

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"An absorbing, intelligent novel" (Washington Post Book World) about a marriage in decline--from the celebrated author of The Romance Reader.

In her "remarkable first novel" (Entertainment Weekly), Pearl Abraham "deftly lift[ed] the opaque curtain from the closed Hasidic world" (New York Times Book Review). Now she tells the poignant

Overview

"An absorbing, intelligent novel" (Washington Post Book World) about a marriage in decline--from the celebrated author of The Romance Reader.

In her "remarkable first novel" (Entertainment Weekly), Pearl Abraham "deftly lift[ed] the opaque curtain from the closed Hasidic world" (New York Times Book Review). Now she tells the poignant story of a marriage cracking and collapsing under the weight of conflicting faiths. Deena's father, a Hasidic scholar, opposes her marriage to the non-Hasidic Daniel based on Kabbalistic interpretations--but Deena ignores her father's prediction and she and Daniel begin to renovate their dream house in Brooklyn. When Daniel brings a beautiful Gentile coworker home from the office one day, their subsequent three-way friendship--and the betrayals it breeds--leads Deena to contemplate where her true home lies, and how far she is willing to travel to find it.

"Her prose is sparse and exacting."--New York Times Book Review

"Whether one is falling in love or out of it, the transition is mysterious. Giving Up America, the story of a young couple in New York whose marriage begins changing for the worse, does full justice to that mystery."--The San Francisco Chronicle

"In spare prose, with painstaking attention to quotidian detail, the book magnifies the anticlimactic dissipation of love and unflinchingly dissects the familiar, and often irreconcilable, tension between commitment and self-realization, daily partnership and romantic fantasy...a page-turner."--Ms.

Editorial Reviews

Maggie Garb
. . .[A] painful account of the dissolution of [a] marriage. . . —The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A Jerusalem-born Hasidic girl and an American Orthodox Jew find the temptations of American culture and the pressures of renovation undermine their marriage in Abraham's thoughtful second novel (after her Hasidic coming-of-age tale, The Romantic Reader). Deena and Daniel marry after an innocent courtship in New York, despite the bad omens her father detects through Kabbalistic numerology. Deena works unenthusiastically as a copywriter, her real passion being the restoration of the house they've bought in an old ethnic neighborhood in Queens. Daniel tires of remodeling, preferring the companionship of his secretary, a would-be Miss America, and her roommate. Cracks in the marriage appear in small things at first (Deena stops making Daniel's breakfast) and then in larger events (Daniel falls for his secretary; Deena is both jealous and relieved). Abraham contrasts American and Israeli cultures, single and married life, Orthodox and Hasidic attitudes, modern and traditional values. Raised in Hasidic communities in Jerusalem, Brooklyn and Upstate New York, she describes Hasidic life without ethnic cliches or sentimentality, at her best capturing the young heroine's mix of rebellion and loyalty. Deena's story at times is too tame, the differences between husband and wife too subtle, and the breakdown of the marriage lacks a defining showdown (even losing her job seems no great loss to Deena). Only Deena's father emerges as a strongly defined character. Yet the book's gentility is also its strength--providing quiet insight into a world rarely depicted so objectively and almost never seen through the eyes of a woman. Editor, Cindy Spigel; agent, Denise Shannon of Georges Borchardt Agency. Author tour. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Abraham's first novel, The Romance Reader, was a word-of-mouth hit, attracting readers with its unusual tale of a young girl's rebellion against her Hasidic family. In Giving Up America, another young Hasidic woman is also caught between the traditions of her upbringing and the secular American world in which she chooses to live. When Deena decides to marry Daniel, a modern Orthodox Jew, her father predicts that the marriage is doomed. As the novel opens, the young couple, married for seven years, are restoring their newly purchased Brooklyn house. Everything seems idyllic, but when Daniel brings home two co-workers, Jill and Ann, the tiny cracks opening in their marriage rupture into large fissures. Deena suspects Daniel of having an affair with Jill, the Southern shiksa. Abraham is most effective in depicting the daily irritations that can breed contempt and kill a marriage, but the last third of the novel feels rushed and contrived. And most of her characters are flat and sketchily drawn; in particular, Jill is a cliche, the Jewish male fantasy that Philip Roth has used to greater effect in his novels. Still, Abraham is a compelling storyteller. --Wilda Williams, Library Journal
Maggie Garb
. . .[A] painful account of the dissolution of [a] marriage. . . -- The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
Can Abraham, whose first novel (The Romance Reader) was a sleeper hit of considerable merit, avoid the sophomore jinx with her second? Again this time, the story concerns a young woman who is moving away from her Orthodox Jewish roots. But those who fear that Abraham is becoming a feminist version of Chaim Potok will be relieved to know that the central dilemma here rests less on the protagonist's sense of deracination than it does on the gradual dissolution of her marriage. In the prologue, Deena's father, a devout Hasidic Jew living in Jerusalem, has predicted disaster for her marriage to Daniel, a modern Orthodox man. But in the beginning pages, the couple are seemingly happy, married now for six years, childless yet thoroughly engaged by a new house and jobs. Each is experiencing a slow slippage from the gravitational pull of traditional Judaism (not the abrupt break that characterized The Romance Reader), but this doesn't become threatening until the marriage founders on the rocks of Deena's growing suspicions. Is Daniel having an affair with Jill, his gorgeous Gentile coworker? Where is he on those long nights when he comes home late, and why is he constantly throwing Deena together with Jill? Since most of the story is told from Deena's point of view, the answers to these questions are hard to come by. When Abraham unexpectedly shifts to Daniel's version of things late in the book, the effect is jarring and emotionally unconvincing, failing to clarify the picture of a crumbling marriage and bringing about a climax that seems attenuated and without impact.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781573221214
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date:
08/24/1998
Pages:
309
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 8.73(h) x 1.22(d)

Meet the Author

Pearl Abraham is the author of The Seventh Beggar, Giving Up America, and The Romance Reader, and the editor of an anthology about Jewish heroines in literature, Een sterke vrouw, wie zal haar vinden?. Her stories and essays have appeared in newspapers, literary quarterlies and anthologies. Abraham teaches literature and creative writing at Western New England College and lives in both Springfield, MA, and New York City.

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