Levitin (The Goodness Gene) offers a vivid portrayal of Chasidic culture in this intimate novel about a contemporary Los Angeles teen's reunion with her extended Orthodox Jewish family. Having felt disconnected from her parents since her younger sister's disappearance five years ago, 15-year-old Marne is eager to go to Hawaii to spend the summer with her Aunt Chaya's family, even if it means putting up with their religious views and rituals. Marne looks forward to swimming in the ocean and learning to surf, but ends up spending most of her time helping overworked Aunt Chaya with her seven children and with her endless community duties as a rabbi's wife. Some traditions practiced in the household-particularly the restrictions placed on women's dress and demeanor-frustrate and embarrass Marne, and she finds herself in a sticky situation when a boy she meets receives a cold reception from her aunt. But Marne's induction to the family's strict rules also has a profound and positive effect, inspiring her to contemplate her own views of family, religion and morality. The broadening of Marne's outlook as she comes to know and cherish her aunt, uncle and cousins is convincing. There are perhaps a few too many conflicts cluttering the storyline, but the heroine's inner turmoil and emotional growth are skillfully and movingly wrought. Ages 12-up. (June)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Strange Relationsby Sonia Levitin
But Marne quickly realizes her visit isn't going to be just about learning to surf and morning runs along the beach, despite the cute surfer boy she keeps bumping into. For one thing, Aunt
A summer in paradise. That's all Marne wants. That's all she can think of when she asks her parents permission to spend the summer in Hawaii with Aunt Carole and her family.
But Marne quickly realizes her visit isn't going to be just about learning to surf and morning runs along the beach, despite the cute surfer boy she keeps bumping into. For one thing, Aunt Carole isn't even Aunt Carole anymore—she's Aunt Chaya, married to a Chasidic rabbi and deeply rooted in her religious community. Nothing could be more foreign to Marne, and fitting into this new culture—and house full of kids—is a challenge. But as she settles into her newfound family's daily routine, she begins to think about spirituality, identity, and finding a place in the world in a way she never has before.
This rich novel is a window into a different life and gets to the very heart of faith, identity, and family ties.
From the Hardcover edition.
Gr 7-10 - While her parents travel for business, Marne, 15, looks forward to spending the summer in Hawaii with her aunt and her family. She's not quite sure what to expect, since her mom has been estranged for several years from Aunt Carole (now "Chaya") due to Carole's "extreme" beliefs. Marne views the trip as an opportunity to expand her horizons, get a tan, run on the beach, and meet cute boys. What she encounters is another world, not just because Hawaii is an island community, but because Aunt Chaya, her rabbi husband, and their seven children are Hasids. Marne's secular Jewish upbringing hasn't prepared her for the strong level of religious devotion and the constant hard work that her aunt embraces with love every day. Marne slowly discovers the deep joy that this lifestyle brings as she helps with the children and becomes an integral part of the selfless community of women. When her best friend arrives for a vacation, Marne is stunned by Kim's shallowness; she realizes that she isn't the same person she used to be, and that her experiences have helped her to accept the terrible tragedy that devastated her family five years earlier. It's rare to find such well-developed characters, empathetic and sensitive religious treatment, and carefully crafted plotlines in one novel. Levitin's strong portrayal of a young woman who is trying to find her own beliefs and develop a sense of family makes this novel a real winner.-Susan Riley, Mount Kisco Public Library, NYCopyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Meet the Author
Sonia Levitin is the author of many popular books for young readers, including Journey to America, The Return, and The Singing Mountain. She lives in Los Angeles, California.
From the Hardcover edition.
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It seems like such a good idea. Marne knows that her mom's sister, Carole, lives in Hawaii, so she has only to convince her parents that she should go for a long overdue visit to her relatives. She'll run along the beach, maybe even surf and swim in the ocean. Best of all, her friend will also be visiting Hawaii, so there will be no end of fun. When her parents agree to Marne's plan, she knows she's in for the perfect summer in the paradise of the Hawaiian islands!
It doesn't take long for Marne to realize that her summer may not be as flawless as she'd hoped. Her aunt, who now calls herself "Chaya" and her uncle, a rabbi, have seven children. Marne is kept busy chasing after sticky toddlers and running errands for her busy, controlling aunt. She doesn't mind helping out, but the religious world of her cousins is far different from the life she's used to back home in L.A.
Although spending Friday nights at Shabbos dinners is a far cry from the fun-filled, tropical nights she'd envisioned, Marne finds herself strangely drawn to some of the peaceful rituals practiced by her relatives. But, how will this fit in with her old life? Will her best friend, Kim, think Marne's becoming weird? What about Jeff, the hunky surfer she met while jogging on the beach? Little by little, she's figuring out who her family is and who she herself wants to become.
STRANGE RELATIONS is an enticing read for anyone interested in exploring different cultures and lifestyles. Marne is a wonderful guide, who gives a thorough glimpse of the life of Chasidic Jews, as seen by a modern teen.