Jerusalem-based newspaper columnist Mann recounts her struggles with men, procrustean religion, drugs, sex, motherhood, breast cancer and the loss of loved ones. Employing the present tense throughout-perhaps to add an urgency that the narrative doesn't always deliver-the first-time author reveals a profound sadness at her center. The daughter and granddaughter of prominent rabbis, Mann rebelled as a teen with drugs and bad boyfriends. Reeling out of a troubled relationship with a druggie, she decided to move from London to Israel, where she studied midwifery and was attracted to the most fundamentalist form of Judaism she could find. She married a Hassidic scholar and adopted a pious lifestyle that puzzled even her father, a more moderate Jew. As she desperately sought happiness, she found herself increasingly repelled by her husband and his ways. Then a hunk of a handyman came to remodel the kitchen. Leers turned to frantic, clawing, biting sex-there is much explicit detail about her romps with this kitchen aide and with other lovers-which, of course, eventually led to the dissolution of her marriage and anguish for their three children. Later, another relationship with another slovenly drug addict went awry, but not before the author describes some luscious nubile bodies on a nude beach with nipples "soft and pink like candy." Lying on that same beach, she felt a lump, learned that she had breast cancer and endured surgery, chemo and radiation. Along the way, her father died, then her mom, in most disturbing fashion. The author then decides it's time to reunite with her sister, institutionalized back in England with Down's syndrome, whom she hasn't seen in 20 years. She vows to visitonce a year from now on. A woeful life, related in prose that's largely hollow and unremarkable.
“Sometimes shocking, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes very funny, Reva Mann’s story is a fascinating glimpse into a hidden world.”—Elle
“Mann tells her story with genuine humor and self-deprecating wit, winning the sympathy of even disapproving readers. Mann’s coming-of-age story speaks directly to young people struggling with questions of family, faith and identity.”—Booklist
“A gripping book, harrowing and devastatingly honest, as well as an important book.”—Naomi Alderman, author of Disobedience, winner of the 2006 Orange Award for New Writers