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The Outside World

The Outside World

4.5 9
by Tova Mirvis

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Tzippy Goldman was born for marriage. She and her mother had always assumed she’d graduate high school, be set up with the right boy, and have a beautiful wedding with white lace and pareve vanilla cream frosting. But at twenty-two, Tzippy’s fast approaching spinsterhood. She dreams of escape; instead, she leaves for a year in Jerusalem.There she meets&


Tzippy Goldman was born for marriage. She and her mother had always assumed she’d graduate high school, be set up with the right boy, and have a beautiful wedding with white lace and pareve vanilla cream frosting. But at twenty-two, Tzippy’s fast approaching spinsterhood. She dreams of escape; instead, she leaves for a year in Jerusalem.There she meets–re-meets–Baruch, the son of her mother’s college roommate. When Tzippy last saw him, his name was Bryan and he wore a Yankees-logo yarmulke. Now he has adopted the black hat of the ultra-orthodox, the tradition in which Tzippy was raised. Twelve weeks later, they’re engaged...and discovering that desire and tradition, devotion and individuality aren’t the easiest balance. Hilarious, compassionate, and tremendously insightful, The Outside World illuminates an insular community, marvelously depicting that complicated blend of faith, love, and family otherwise known as life in a modern world.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Brilliant. . . . Mirvis finds reservoirs of belief, doubt, ambition, folly, lust and the rest of the human equation.” —The Washington Post Book World“Melancholy and subtly humorous. . . . Under Mirvis’ knowing and sympathetic eye, this insular sect reveals itself to be not such a small world after all.” —Entertainment Weekly"Expertly crafted. . . . Mirvis explores the bubbling tensions between the different worlds her characters straddle: modernity and tradition, the spiritual and the physical, fantasy and reality, religion and secularism, individual freedom and social mores." -The Chicago Tribune“Mirvis has a pastry chef's control of her material, a sureness about not overhandling the dough. She leavens utterly serious explorations of faith with chuckle-out-loud humor, yet doesn't slip into irreverence, let alone disrespect. . . . You don't have to be Jewish to love her.” —Seattle Times"Mirvis tells the story...with gentle humor and loving attention to Jewish life. She has a talent for seeing everybody's side and making incompatible attitudes seem equally reasonable." -Newsday“Compelling and heartfelt…will satisfy readers curious for a true-to-life peek into the semisecret society of Orthodox Judaism.” —San Francisco Chronicle“Her chatty style and her eye for cultural contradictions are always engaging.” —The New Yorker“It is a sin against human intelligence to use the tired phrase ‘My Big Fat Fill-in-the-Blank Wedding’ anymore, but it's tempting to haul it out one more time for this warm novel about two Orthodox Jewish families who wrestle with faith, community and each other…Engaging.” —The Miami Herald“Makes gefilte fish of any stereotypes readers may have about Orthodox Jews….Joyously sweet-natured…and also pointedly insightful about just how complicated it is to lead a religious life.” —Kirkus Reviews“Rife with laugh out loud lines... charming and funny. A rich, fascinating glimpse into contemporary Orthodoxy." -The Forward“The last generation…has seen a wholly unexpected revival within American Judaism…The novels of Allegra Goodman, Aryeh Lev Stollman and Dara Horn, among others, have explored this landscape. But none has done so with greater perception and empathy than Tova Mirvis in her breakthrough book, The Outside World.” —Samuel Freedman, The Washington Post Book World“You don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate a Tova Mirvis book…. She recreates a world of rule breakers, believers, doubters, and deceivers….A sometimes hilarious tale of isolation, faith, and destiny.” —The Jerusalem Post"Witty and wise, Mirvis's novel explores the expectations of sacred scripture and the yearning for freedom within the parameters of belief." -Booklist (starred review)"In The Outside World, Tova Mirvis creates a Milky Way of believers searching for God and a life of meaning. ...Mirvis is a wonderful storyteller and The Outside World is a charming novel with affecting characters." -The Courier-Post (NJ)“At times giddily humorous, at times stirring and sorrowful, Mirvis’s insightful novel is packed with convincing detail…The universal themes of growing up and choosing a fitting life to lead will resonate with readers of all faiths.” —Publishers Weekly“A moving and gently humorous story about the varieties of insularity, faith, acceptance and reconciliation." -The Memphis Commercial Appeal“With both humor and poignancy…a touching rendering for those who want to explore their own or another culture more deeply.” —Library Journal"Mirvis writes with gentle humor…She also captures the challenge of leading a religious life: the obligations, the meaning of faith, the balance between community and self, the occasional doubts." -The Jewish WeekThe Outside World starts off as a romantic comedy but grows into something more complicated, more poignant and more interesting…Mirvis juggles the many points of view on Orthodox life without singling out one as superior.” —The Columbus Dispatch"Hilariously brilliant... personal and profound... Mirvis has tackled insider worlds before in her previous bestseller, The Ladies Auxiliary, and here she shines as well, creating a whole warm, indelible world and bringing it all to life with insider details." - JBooks.com
The New Yorker
Mirvis’s first novel, “The Ladies Auxiliary,” followed a single mother with flower-child leanings who entered the Orthodox Jewish community in Memphis, where the author herself grew up. Memphis figures here, too, as the place where Tzippy Goldman and Bryan Miller move when they get married. Tzippy is fleeing an ultra-traditional neighborhood and a mother obsessed with the marriageability of her daughters; Bryan, conversely, has no patience with his comparatively secular family. Each is attracted to the other’s background. Mirvis lacks the depth that Allegra Goodman brings to this territory, but her chatty style and her eye for cultural contradictions are always engaging.
The Washington Post
The Outside World, in ways reminiscent but never imitative of Goodman's masterly Kaaterskill Falls, plunges deeply into both the daily duties and private soul-searching of its devout characters. Beneath the women's wigs and the men's black fedoras, Mirvis finds reservoirs of belief, doubt, ambition, folly, lust and the rest of the human equation. — Samuel G. Freedman
Publishers Weekly
With a sharp and sympathetic eye for the oft neglected and misunderstood worlds of ultra-Orthodox and Modern Orthodox Judaism, Mirvis (The Ladies Auxiliary) crafts a compelling narrative that delves into the lives of two families, each struggling with its own insecurities and difficulties. In this second novel, 22-year-old Orthodox Tzippy, born and bred in Jewish Brooklyn and insulated from secular society but secretly curious and eager to experience it, is barraged with meddlesome questions and with a slew of seemingly endless carbon-copy dates intended to facilitate her marriage to a reputable yeshiva boy before she turns into a spinster. Meanwhile, not too far away, Naomi and Joel, Modern Orthodox Jews, are straining to knock some sense into their suddenly ultra-religious son, Bryan (now calling himself by his Hebrew name Baruch), who has morphed from a head-banging, jeans-wearing, girl-chasing jock into a soul-searching, Talmud-studying, black-hat Jew interested only in immersing himself in God's laws and the Torah. When these two formerly separate worlds collide, parents, siblings and spouses must reflect on what their faith means to them and what to do when their beliefs unexpectedly diverge from those of loved ones. At times giddily humorous, at times stirring and sorrowful, Mirvis's insightful novel is packed with convincing detail, from descriptions of yarmulkes (fancifully embroidered or stolid black velvet) to the varieties of wigs worn by married ultra-Orthodox women. The characters' frequent use of distinctively Jewish terms and ideas gives the novel a foreign air, but the universal themes of growing up and choosing a fitting life to lead will resonate with readers of all faiths. Agent, Nicole Aragi. 7-city author tour. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
This novel is a invitation to the center of the modern American Orthodox Jewish community as seen through the eyes of two Brooklyn families. In one family, the 22-year-old daughter is getting beyond marriageable age and after 42 matchmaking dates, her mother's dreams of a big wedding are fading. Meanwhile, a young man returns from a year of study in Israel; he is ready to submerge himself in study and move away from the temptations of American life. When they both go to Israel to study, and perhaps escape their families, they fall in love. Their families must adjust to their children's new lives, survive a traditional wedding and find their own way within their traditional beliefs and their modern lives. The plot and characters of this novel will be of interest to young people and their families of all religions who are struggling to maintain their identities and personal freedom within their religious beliefs. Mirvis writes with humor and understanding and shows empathy toward the children and parents who become "too" religious as well as those who rebel against the strict orthodox beliefs. The lessons of this book apply to believers in any religion, but the flavor of this story is delightfully kosher. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2004, Random House, Vintage, 285p., Ages 15 to adult.
—Nola Theiss
Library Journal
Fundamentalists from many religions struggle with whether to accommodate the modern world or live in conflict with it. The way this struggle affects two Orthodox Jewish families is examined with both humor and poignancy in Mirvis's second novel (after The Ladies Auxiliary). The two families are brought together-and torn apart-by the marriage of their children, who bridge the traditional and the modern. After meeting and falling in love in Israel, Tzippy (Tzipporah) and Brian (Baruch)-whose American and Jewish names are markers for their cultural conflict-return to New Jersey and marry. As both newlyweds are very young, they have had few years to plan for their futures; until now, Brian has thought only of Torah study and Tzippy only of marriage. But all of that changes as the outside world encroaches and the couple discovers that building a future together demands maturity and change. A touching rendering for those who want to explore their own or another culture more deeply, this is recommended for most collections.-Judith Kicinski, Sarah Lawrence Coll. Lib., Bronxville, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Tzippy Goldman, 22, has sat through too many first dates in Brooklyn hotel lobbies. Her mother has been planning her wedding since she was little, and still she's not married. Hungry for life experience, she wants to go to Israel. At the same time, Bryan Miller is searching for more meaning than his Orthodox Jewish lifestyle and family provide. He changes his name to Baruch and decides to give up plans to attend Columbia University in order to study the Talmud at yeshiva in Jerusalem. The move leads him to become ultra-Orthodox, and to Tzippy. They find that though they love one another deeply, they must constantly seek a balance between tradition, faith, and the outside world. This novel is absorbing and memorable in its presentation of the rhythms of everyday life, the joy of doing, and the need to find one's place in the community. Weddings, Sabbaths, and seders are richly detailed, and the characters, especially the couple and their mothers, are finely drawn. Mirvis writes with compassion and humor about the intersection of life and faith. Readers get a strong sense of this unique world, but the themes are universal.-Susanne Bardelson, Kitsap Regional Library, WA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A novel of Jewish manners makes gefilte fish of any stereotypes readers may have about Orthodox Jews. In Brooklyn, Tzippy Goldman, 22, is desperate to find a husband. Pressure comes from her mother, Shayna, whose less religious upbringing and marriage to the big-dreaming/small-earning Herschel have left her insecure about her place in their tight-knit Ultra Orthodox community. Tzippy slogs through countless organized "dates" until she escapes through a year of study in Israel. Meanwhile, in suburban New Jersey, Shayna's college roommate Naomi and her lawyer husband Joel send their kids to Orthodox Jewish schools but also eat pizza, love baseball, and integrate themselves into the larger community. They're shocked when their son returns from a term of study in Israel after high school to announce that he's become Baruch and intends to continue Yeshiva studies in Israel rather than attend Columbia as planned. Tzippy and Baruch/Bryan meet and fall in love, their courtship more or less strictly following religious law. But their marriage uncovers festering tensions in both their parents' homes. In the fervor of his new religiosity, Baruch/Bryan is obnoxiously know-it-all and defiant against his parents. Fuming at his son's intransigence, Joel faces his own indifference to strict observance, while, secure in her belief, Naomi explores a more personal, New Age spiritual Judaism. In the meantime, Tzippy's escape from her overbearing mother seems complete when she and Baruch move to Memphis to manager a kosher restaurant for Herschel. Surprised by how much he enjoys running the restaurant, though it fails under Herschel's interference, Baruch turns to his competent father for advice, while Tzippybegins college and discovers secular books. As the newlyweds find themselves, the parents (excepting the hopelessly irrepressible Herschel) go through their own metamorphoses. Characters and relationships evolve, defying easy categorization. Joyously sweet-natured second outing by Mirvis (The Ladies' Auxiliary, 1999)-and also pointedly insightful about just how complicated it is to lead a religious life. First printing of 75,000. Agent: Nicole Aragi

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Vintage Contemporaries Series
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

- One -

Tzippy Goldman was a good girl. Yet she lay awake and wished she could run across the living room, fling open all the windows and all the doors, and scream. Tzippy is crazy, the neighbors would say, unfit for our sons, our nephews. But no, Tzippy would reply, not crazy, not unfit. Just sad. And maybe a little angry.

To scream would be like battling the laws of nature. Still, she let herself imagine it, now that it was late at night and she was alone. Her parents were at the Rosenbaum wedding in Monsey, and the house that normally teemed with her four singing sisters was temporarily still. There were reasons for Tzippy's urge to howl. It was because of an unjust world, an unfair God. It was because bad things happened to good people, because fortune and luck were doled out in unequal portions. It was because Tzippy Goldman was twenty-two and still not married.

She and her mother had spent years planning imaginary weddings, deciding on color schemes before she was old enough to find a groom. Her mother used to tuck her into bed and, with her finger, draw flowers and rings and wedding cakes on her back. They discussed chiffon and organza, compared silk shantung and satin. They selected Venetian-lace wedding dresses, rhinestone tiaras, and veils with cascading tulle. When they finished planning the wedding, they moved on to the marriage house, the dream space Tzippy and her husband would one day occupy. In the marriage house, everything was new. Everything was white and clean and fresh. There were new sheets and white lace tablecloths. In the marriage house, there was never anything to worry about. The dishes never needed to be washed, the beds never needed to be made. The phone didn't ring, the doorbell didn't buzz. The dinner table was set for two, and there were long evenings with nothing to do but be together.

This dream was supposed to be waiting for her. Both Tzippy and her mother had always assumed that she would finish high school, get set up on shidduch dates, meet the right boy, get engaged, and have a beautiful wedding with lots of white lace and pareve vanilla cream frosting. She was born for this. It was possible to imagine that somewhere, in an alternate world, Tzippy had a home set up, children born, and dinner long prepared. But, in this world, it hadn't happened as she had expected, and she had passed four years waiting and worrying.

There were so many ways to be set up: my rabbi knows your rabbi; my mother knows your mother; my neighbor, your neighbor. Tzippy had been set up by teachers and friends, and by her mother, who was omnipotent and omniscient. Setting up an eighteen-year-old was a hobby for people. Finding a husband for a twenty-two-year-old was a national emergency. Well-meaning neighbors called constantly with suggestions. Tzippy's name was in the file box of every professional matchmaker in Brooklyn. Her virtues had been sung to every neighbor, every neighbor's cousin, everyone who had a son, nephew, or acquaintance of marriageable age. Before a first date could take place, so many questions had to be asked. Is Tzippy thin? Is she pretty? Is the family rich? Will they support a husband while he learns? Is there a history of divorce or mental illness? Are there any distinguished rabbis in the family? Do they own a television set?

Once the right answers were given, the match was made and the boy was allowed to call for a date. Tzippy wore the right clothes, said the right things, and nodded at the right times. She tried to convince herself that she should want to marry one of these boys. But she felt nothing for the strangers who sat across from her. She had always imagined that she would feel a rush of passion, of excitement, a rush at least of something. She had always hoped that her heart would pound and she would know when she found him. But the only thing she ever knew was that she wanted to go home. She felt as if she had been on the same date a hundred times before. She could close her eyes and a different boy would be sitting across from her.

Sometimes the boy wanted to go out with her again. Sometimes she convinced herself to go out with him. Sometimes the ones she wanted to go out with weren't the same ones who wanted to go out with her. Even if they were both interested, it never lasted more than a few dates. No matter what the reason, the explanation was always the same: "It's not shayach." This could mean that there was no chemistry. It could mean that the family wasn't prominent enough. Perhaps the boy was hoping for a more religious girl, a prettier girl, a fancier girl. Perhaps the girl was hoping for a boy not quite so short. She wanted someone more outgoing, someone more serious, less serious, a boy who would learn in yeshiva full-time, a boy who wore a black hat only on Shabbos and would every once in a while see a movie. That it worked for anyone seemed to defy the laws of nature that God, in His infinite wisdom, had set down.

Yet her former high school classmates seemed to have no trouble defying nature. One by one, another engagement was announced, a party held, a ring flashed. Tzippy bore it with great dignity, smiling tightly when her friends recalled that at their high school graduation they had bet that Tzippy would be first. And though she had modestly protested-no, not me, surely Rochel Leah or Sara Bracha first-she had assumed that their predictions spoke the truth. But four years had passed since she possessed that certainty. And tonight she stayed home while her mother danced at the wedding of a nineteen-year-old girl who got engaged to the first boy she ever went out with.

Tzippy had things that were supposed to keep her occupied until she got married. She took an early childhood education class at Brooklyn College. She worked as an aide in a nursery school. She helped her mother with her four sisters: Zahava, who was fifteen; Malky, who was eleven; Dena, who was seven; and Dassi, who was five. But Tzippy worried that her real life would never begin. She would live eternally with her parents, while her married friends moved into new apartments. They would sleep next to their husbands, while she became the pity of the neighborhood. Girls three years younger than she would get married, then girls five years younger. With their hats and their homes, they would become married women, while she remained a girl.

"Don't be negative, Tzippy," her mother always told her. "You need to have faith. If you think it's never going to happen, maybe it won't.

"You need to smile. No one wants to marry a lemon," her mother reminded her.

Outwardly, Tzippy acquiesced to her mother's suggestions and tried not to lose hope. She knew that it was bad to be angry, bad to want more than had been allotted to her. She reminded herself that she was supposed to look at her situation and understand why God wanted it this way. Her mother said that her prolonged single state should be an atonement for anything she had ever done wrong. Every unmarried girl in Brooklyn felt the pressure, but for Tzippy it bore down with such weight that it was hard to breathe. To protect herself, Tzippy screamed silent rebuttals in her head: Why do I need to smile, Mom, if it's in the hands of God? If you like him so much, why don't you go out with him? Maybe I'll never get married. Maybe I'll become the world's first Jewish nun.

Hiding inside these silent retorts was a voice that was willful and disagreeable. Tzippy knew that this voice was probably her yetzer harah, her evil inclination, which she was supposed to ignore. But it liked to suggest that maybe she would never get married. It also liked to challenge her. What if she yelled at her mother in public? What if she refused to help out with her sisters? What if she insisted on getting her own apartment far away from Brooklyn? The presence of this voice scared Tzippy. She worried that she might open her mouth and this voice might emerge. Even if she managed to keep it quiet, people might be able to sense it budding inside her. Just by looking at her, they might know that she felt things she wasn't supposed to feel. The only way to make it go away was to get engaged. Her friends who had been delivered safely into marriage surely didn't hear such voices. But left on her own, the voice could take over. After a date hadn't worked out or another one of her friends had gotten engaged, it tempted her to test God. If You don't find me a husband, I will eat this cookie without making a blessing, Tzippy had once warned Him. When the phone didn't ring, a matchmaker on the other end, she had taken a bite and waited for God to strike her down.

It hadn't ended there. Once, when Tzippy had an afternoon to herself, she went to Lord & Taylor and wandered through the section of evening gowns. Long and satin, with beads and no sleeves, sheer, short, slinky, spaghetti-strapped and sequined, they lured Tzippy. Praying that no one would notice, she snuck a strapless black gown into a dressing room. In front of the mirror, she first saw only the absence of the required sleeves and high neck; she couldn't get over so much naked skin. But as she kept staring, she saw not what the dress was missing, but what she had. Tzippy was slight, barely five two. Her brown hair was thick and straight and long. She wore long jean skirts by day, flowered pajamas by night. But in this dress, she looked like a grown woman. She was surprised at the body she saw-as if the thin ballerina arms, the small waist and hips, weren't her own. Under her uniform of long skirts and long sleeves, they were hidden not just from others, but from herself as well. She loved what she saw. She would leave the dress here as long as she could bring home this image of herself.

This voice, these feelings, made it hard to fall asleep. Ever since Tzippy quietly turned twenty-two, the pressure had mounted exponentially. On this night, she wasn't the only one who couldn't sleep. Dassi, her youngest sister, woke up, besieged with bad dreams of monsters and dogs. Eyes half-closed, she appeared in Tzippy's doorway.

"Can I come in your bed?" she asked.

"Of course," said Tzippy, and took Dassi in her arms.

Tzippy's room was tiny, really a small box, but Tzippy was the oldest, so she had it to herself. There were no posters of rock bands, no soap opera stars. Instead, there was a picture of Jerusalem's Old City on the wall, a collection of china dolls on top of her bookcase. A fading border of ballerinas danced high on the wall. The bedspread was pink. The walls were a matching shade. There were two kinds of bedrooms Tzippy would occupy: the one of her childhood and the one of her marriage. Since one was supposed to follow closely upon the other, neither Tzippy nor her mother had seen the point of redecorating.

Dassi could make herself comfortable anywhere. She knew how to find the soft spots and burrow in. As Dassi went back to sleep, Tzippy smoothed her hair and whispered that everything was okay. Dassi had one arm draped across Tzippy's stomach, and Tzippy risked waking her by running her fingers across her baby-like cheeks. Her previous urge to scream was no match for the soft, steady breathing of her youngest sister. As Dassi turned in her sleep, Tzippy melted back into the gentle, helpful, and kind girl that everyone knew.

But Tzippy still couldn't sleep. She tried to calm her anger by thinking about the date she had tomorrow night with Yosef Schachter, whom her mother was so excited about. She told herself that it was wrong to assume that this boy would talk about himself the whole night, forget her name, and then tell the matchmaker how off the mark it was. Maybe her mother was right. Maybe Yosef Schachter was The One. Tzippy had been taught that God was busy day and night pairing everyone up. She believed in the God of Abraham who introduced him to Sarah, the God of Isaac who matched him with Rebecca, the God of Jacob who gave him both Rachel and Leah. Tzippy wanted to believe that she would soon be the bride who floated down the aisle, her face shadowed with tulle. She wanted to close her eyes and be led to the future that awaited her.

Meet the Author

Tova Mirvis grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. She received an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University. She lives outside of Boston with her husband and two children. She can be found online at www.tovamirvis.com.

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Outside World 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It¿s a fun book to read, specially if you are into judaism as a culture, but I expected some more drama
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Didn't want it to end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved all tge charactors and how they all are so interwoven. A great read I really enjoyed!! Tzippy is wonderful, as you can just feel what she is going through.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Tova Mirvis¿ ¿The Outside World¿ wonderfully depicts the tensions inherent in a community¿s constant struggle to define its own contours. The primary characters in this novel, a pair of young lovers from different segments of the Orthodox Jewish community, are drawn to each other precisely because their respective backgrounds epitomize the other¿s desires. Baruch (Bryan) is attracted to Tzippy because her family¿s version of their shared religion emphasizes punctilious observance and a more severe break with their contemporary world. Tzippy is attracted to Bryan (Baruch) because his family¿s version of their shared religion allows and encourages a fuller integration with contemporary society. While all of the novel¿s characters struggle to balance their faith against a completely outside non-Jewish world, the young couple illustrates the degree to which the definition of inside and outside in any closed ethnic community is always being negotiated. As each of the novel¿s characters (children and parents) develop and find their way within their communal world, each struggles with a community that encourages conformity by incorporating their own needs and wants into the ¿inside world.¿ As a study of the nature of community and conformity, the novel is an excellent choice for people of all faith and ethnic backgrounds.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a masterpiece in writing. Every sentence is a joy to read. The story speaks to the challenges of living a religious life in a modern world but also helps us all remember the simple pleasures of family, history, and tradition. I opened the book and did not close it until it was done. The mental imagery the author creates in every sentence makes the book more like a movie than a novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mirvis paints a rich tableau of characters, each relating to religion and modernity in a different way. The book is so well-written that you feel the struggle of each person as they try to navigate their way in the 'outside world'. The beauty of Mirvis' work shines through on each page. It is a joy to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
GrannyG More than 1 year ago
Very interesting to learn about a culture that you are not very familiar with. People are different, but all the same.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved Tova Mirvis¿ widely anticipated second novel, The Outside World. With great wit, deep insight, and gentle humor, Mirvis has created a living and breathing cast of characters who invite the reader to share in their touching and often laugh-out-loud funny journeys toward self-realization. The book brilliantly captures the dynamic of parents and children as children mature and begin to establish their own identities. Quite subtly, and in ways that only good fiction can, the novel presents a commentary on the sexism that often masquerades as religion. Bryan¿s interactions with his sister Ilana and his mother Naomi offer some of the book¿s more humorous moments, while highlighting the insidious and varied ways in which men quash women¿s voices in the name of religion. The novel also grapples with the sexism buried deep within the myth of the nuclear family. Naomi and Shayna, two mothers marrying off their children, are complex characters whose identity crises are brought about by a combination of inner religious conflict, frustrated housewifery and the end of child-rearing. Shayna defers her dreams to her children through whom she lives vicariously. As her daughter Tzippy leaves the home and slowly severs the close connection with her mother, Shayna is thrust into a depression from which only Tzippy can rouse her. Naomi is no less affected by her children¿s rebellion. Their rejection of her well-researched and carefully planned mothering strategies causes Naomi to question her own identity¿an identity circumscribed by her role as their mother. In short, this is a terrific, funny and insightful book, and a great read.