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For Ronit Krushka, thirty-two and single, who lives on Manhattan's Upper West Side, Orthodox Judaism is a suffocating culture she fled long ago. When she learns that her estranged father, the pre-eminent rabbi of the London Orthodox Jewish community in which she was raised, has died, she leaves behind her Friday night takeout, her troublesome romance, and her boisterous circle of friends and returns home for the first time in years.

There, amid the traditional ebb and flow of the community -- the quiet young women returning from their kosher shops and the men with their tightly clutched prayer books -- Ronit reminds herself of her dual mission: to mourn and to collect a single heirloom -- her mother's Shabbat candlesticks. But when Ronit reconnects with her complex and beloved cousin Dovid and with a forbidden childhood sweetheart, she becomes more than just a stranger in her old home -- she becomes a threat.

Driven by wit and beautifully rendered detail, Disobedience pulls back the curtain on a devout and closed world. Set at the crossroads of tradition and modernity, of personal desires and the demands of God, Disobedience is about the importance of moving on and what we lose when we do -- and it is about the tendency toward disobedience that we all have.
Published: Touchstone on
ISBN: 9781416540977
List price: $11.99
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I didn't really like Naomi Alderman's novel, Disobedience. I found it kind of annoying. But it has stayed with me for some time, near the surface, too. Maybe I don't like it because it hits oddly close to home.The characters bothered me. I believed in them; I just wanted to smack some sense into them. The books main character is an adult woman, travelling back to her childhood home in London after her father's death. Her father was the spiritual leader of an extremely conservative sect of orthodox Jews who live apart from the world as much as they can following very strict, very rigid, gender roles. She left home after her mother's death because she could not fit herself into the role of wife and mother which was the only option her father's teachings allowed here. But because she has come to the end of a not very good relationship, hit a set of promotion roadblocks at work, and wants a final chance to make peace with her childhood ghosts, she returns to London to sort out her father's things.Her father's community is less than thrilled. Two of her childhood friends now married to eachother, round out the set of major players in Disobedience. The two friends both once loved her, but have since come to terms with the desires their community forbids. By suppressing their true desires, and following the rules, they have both become respected members of the community.If you know what it is to walk away from family members who disapprove of you, maybe you can understand why I found these three so frustrating. In spite of all they'd been put through by the prejudice of their family and their community, they still seek their approval, they still seek their love. I understand that, but I also know that there comes a point when one must simply walk away. I wanted them all to just walk away.So Disobedience was a frustrating reading experience for me. It's also an excellent book, well-written with complex characters who address serious issues in an honest manner that does not produce neat endings. Disobedience is a book that has stayed with me a long time now. Maybe I did like it.more
By concentrating on a group of Orthodox Jews in the real London neighborhood of Hendon, Alderman discusses Judaism, God, obedience, sexuality, communication, the love of learning, silence, inequality, abuse of power, the importance of ritual and the place of the person in community. She also has some really great descriptions of migraines. This book very deservedly won the Orange Prize for new writers.more
This story reminded me of Naomi Ragen's Sotah, not that the stories were similar but in the lesson we all need to remember, SIFT. Just as Ronit, Esti, and Dovid must turn both inward and to each other to find what truly matters in their life so must we sift through our own stories. This was a wonderful read and one I would not hesitate to recommend.more
This is a fascinating glimpse into the world of Orthodox Judaism. The main character returns to England when her father, a renown rabbi, dies after their long estrangement. I found the plot far less interesting than the practices of the Orthodox Jews and the origins of their long-held beliefs.more
I enjoyed the glimpse into the Hasidic world in England the characters and their interactions did not ring true. The ending in particular did not seem plausible given the behavior of the characters to that point.more
Disobedience, by Naomi Alderman, begins with Ronit Krushka returning to London's Hendon neighborhood to attend her father's funeral. Ronit was raised by her father, Rav Krushka, a well-respected rabbi and leader of an Orthodox Jewish community, but she rebelled and left the community for New York and life as a non-religious Jew. However, when Ronit returns for Rav Krushka's funeral, she must confront the demons of her past - not only the culture she finds suffocating, but also her relationship with Elsi, her best friend, and Dovid, her cousin. As the book progresses, Ronit and the modern way of life she represents becomes a threat to the well-being of the entire community of Orthodox Jews who followed her father so devotedly.This is Alderman's first book, and she does an excellent job of drawing the three main characters - Ronit, Elsi and Dovid. She also draws the reader into the world of Orthodox Judaism, showing how it's world runs in a sort of parallel to the rest of the West. In Disobedience, each chapter is divided into three parts: The first is a Torah lesson with some words about its meaning; the second tells the story in the third person, and is often about Elsi, Dovid or both; and the third is Ronit's story, told in the first person. I found the structure somewhat limiting as the story progressed. I think if Alderman had been a bit less rigid in sticking to the structure until about the last 2-3 chapters, the books could have had a bit more of a natural flow. Since I found Elsi to be the most interesting character, I found toward the end of the book that I wanted Alderman to spend less time with Ronit and more time with Elsi. And, I think the Ronit section in the last chapter should have been left out altogether - Alderman had a perfect ending in the last few paragraphs of the third-person section. However, overall I really enjoyed this book, picked up on a whim, and would recommend it as a quick read by a very good new author.more
A Jewish woman in New York has to go home to her Orthodox Rabbi father's funeral and face all the people and torn feelings she left behind years before. She had rejected her father's faith and never married. It's a great story, each character is unique and well developed. The book was nominated for several awards- it won the Orange Prize New Writers Award, and was on the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award longlist and the Waverton Good Read Award longlist.Highly recommended. I look forward to her second book.more
Disobedience begins with the death of the well-respected leader of an Orthodox Jewish synagogue in Hendon, England. The death of Rav Krushka sets off a chain of events which reveals the essence of one Orthodox Jewish community. Ronit Krushka, the estranged daughter of the Rav, is the perfect vehicle for this story, revealing the hypocrisy of those who eagerly pursue the righteousness God desires while at the same time failing to tamp down the sinful gossip and petty self-righteousness of their ingrown community. Additionally, the narrative takes a look at Ronit's cousin Rabbi Dovid Kuperman and his wife Esti who have eased into a marriage that is what neither expected and which provides happiness to neither. The Rav's death and the resulting return of Ronit to the community after a number of years absence unearth a number of issues that have lain dormant within the community and through which they must work in the course of the novel. Each chapter is artfully divided into three sections: one section for Ronit, one from Dovid and Esti, and one Godly anecdote that serves to shed light on the chapter's subject matter. With this format Alderman illuminates the community from God's perspective, from the inside, and from Ronit's slightly more deprecating point of view. Readers will laugh at Ronit's wit with regard to her former community and her eagerness to knock this backward community off its axis, even if that means telling entirely wacky untruthes. They will sympathize as Dovid struggles against a leadership role in a synagogue which he is coming to respect less and less, and with Esti as she strives to find a way to combat her "inappropriate" desires and to combat the gossip of the coummunity she never could escape. As each of the characters works to "fix" a group of people that are terribly stuck in their ways and to come to terms with those things that simply cannot be changed, this community and Orthodox Judaism come to life. In all, this is a triumphant story told with grace and sensitivity toward a community loved by God and its own citizens regardless of its imperfections. The narrative is richly rewarding as we watch the three main characters come to terms with the nature of their community and find themselves in the process.I loved Alderman's honest depiction of Orthodox Judaism. The community's rigorous efforts to follow God's commands to the letter are astonishing. The characters are unique and engaging. Each faces their own difficulty within the community and within their selves, and it is fascinating to watch them become agents of change within a community that seems unchangeable and come to various degrees of contentment both inside and outside of the community. Additionally, I loved the first part of each chapter which is written in an almost sermon-like format using "we." I found that I appreciated the insight that these few paragraphs in each chapter had into the nature of God and the clues they provided for the larger meaning of the chapters. I really appreciated the format and the inside and out look at the community it provided.more
Read all 9 reviews

Reviews

I didn't really like Naomi Alderman's novel, Disobedience. I found it kind of annoying. But it has stayed with me for some time, near the surface, too. Maybe I don't like it because it hits oddly close to home.The characters bothered me. I believed in them; I just wanted to smack some sense into them. The books main character is an adult woman, travelling back to her childhood home in London after her father's death. Her father was the spiritual leader of an extremely conservative sect of orthodox Jews who live apart from the world as much as they can following very strict, very rigid, gender roles. She left home after her mother's death because she could not fit herself into the role of wife and mother which was the only option her father's teachings allowed here. But because she has come to the end of a not very good relationship, hit a set of promotion roadblocks at work, and wants a final chance to make peace with her childhood ghosts, she returns to London to sort out her father's things.Her father's community is less than thrilled. Two of her childhood friends now married to eachother, round out the set of major players in Disobedience. The two friends both once loved her, but have since come to terms with the desires their community forbids. By suppressing their true desires, and following the rules, they have both become respected members of the community.If you know what it is to walk away from family members who disapprove of you, maybe you can understand why I found these three so frustrating. In spite of all they'd been put through by the prejudice of their family and their community, they still seek their approval, they still seek their love. I understand that, but I also know that there comes a point when one must simply walk away. I wanted them all to just walk away.So Disobedience was a frustrating reading experience for me. It's also an excellent book, well-written with complex characters who address serious issues in an honest manner that does not produce neat endings. Disobedience is a book that has stayed with me a long time now. Maybe I did like it.more
By concentrating on a group of Orthodox Jews in the real London neighborhood of Hendon, Alderman discusses Judaism, God, obedience, sexuality, communication, the love of learning, silence, inequality, abuse of power, the importance of ritual and the place of the person in community. She also has some really great descriptions of migraines. This book very deservedly won the Orange Prize for new writers.more
This story reminded me of Naomi Ragen's Sotah, not that the stories were similar but in the lesson we all need to remember, SIFT. Just as Ronit, Esti, and Dovid must turn both inward and to each other to find what truly matters in their life so must we sift through our own stories. This was a wonderful read and one I would not hesitate to recommend.more
This is a fascinating glimpse into the world of Orthodox Judaism. The main character returns to England when her father, a renown rabbi, dies after their long estrangement. I found the plot far less interesting than the practices of the Orthodox Jews and the origins of their long-held beliefs.more
I enjoyed the glimpse into the Hasidic world in England the characters and their interactions did not ring true. The ending in particular did not seem plausible given the behavior of the characters to that point.more
Disobedience, by Naomi Alderman, begins with Ronit Krushka returning to London's Hendon neighborhood to attend her father's funeral. Ronit was raised by her father, Rav Krushka, a well-respected rabbi and leader of an Orthodox Jewish community, but she rebelled and left the community for New York and life as a non-religious Jew. However, when Ronit returns for Rav Krushka's funeral, she must confront the demons of her past - not only the culture she finds suffocating, but also her relationship with Elsi, her best friend, and Dovid, her cousin. As the book progresses, Ronit and the modern way of life she represents becomes a threat to the well-being of the entire community of Orthodox Jews who followed her father so devotedly.This is Alderman's first book, and she does an excellent job of drawing the three main characters - Ronit, Elsi and Dovid. She also draws the reader into the world of Orthodox Judaism, showing how it's world runs in a sort of parallel to the rest of the West. In Disobedience, each chapter is divided into three parts: The first is a Torah lesson with some words about its meaning; the second tells the story in the third person, and is often about Elsi, Dovid or both; and the third is Ronit's story, told in the first person. I found the structure somewhat limiting as the story progressed. I think if Alderman had been a bit less rigid in sticking to the structure until about the last 2-3 chapters, the books could have had a bit more of a natural flow. Since I found Elsi to be the most interesting character, I found toward the end of the book that I wanted Alderman to spend less time with Ronit and more time with Elsi. And, I think the Ronit section in the last chapter should have been left out altogether - Alderman had a perfect ending in the last few paragraphs of the third-person section. However, overall I really enjoyed this book, picked up on a whim, and would recommend it as a quick read by a very good new author.more
A Jewish woman in New York has to go home to her Orthodox Rabbi father's funeral and face all the people and torn feelings she left behind years before. She had rejected her father's faith and never married. It's a great story, each character is unique and well developed. The book was nominated for several awards- it won the Orange Prize New Writers Award, and was on the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award longlist and the Waverton Good Read Award longlist.Highly recommended. I look forward to her second book.more
Disobedience begins with the death of the well-respected leader of an Orthodox Jewish synagogue in Hendon, England. The death of Rav Krushka sets off a chain of events which reveals the essence of one Orthodox Jewish community. Ronit Krushka, the estranged daughter of the Rav, is the perfect vehicle for this story, revealing the hypocrisy of those who eagerly pursue the righteousness God desires while at the same time failing to tamp down the sinful gossip and petty self-righteousness of their ingrown community. Additionally, the narrative takes a look at Ronit's cousin Rabbi Dovid Kuperman and his wife Esti who have eased into a marriage that is what neither expected and which provides happiness to neither. The Rav's death and the resulting return of Ronit to the community after a number of years absence unearth a number of issues that have lain dormant within the community and through which they must work in the course of the novel. Each chapter is artfully divided into three sections: one section for Ronit, one from Dovid and Esti, and one Godly anecdote that serves to shed light on the chapter's subject matter. With this format Alderman illuminates the community from God's perspective, from the inside, and from Ronit's slightly more deprecating point of view. Readers will laugh at Ronit's wit with regard to her former community and her eagerness to knock this backward community off its axis, even if that means telling entirely wacky untruthes. They will sympathize as Dovid struggles against a leadership role in a synagogue which he is coming to respect less and less, and with Esti as she strives to find a way to combat her "inappropriate" desires and to combat the gossip of the coummunity she never could escape. As each of the characters works to "fix" a group of people that are terribly stuck in their ways and to come to terms with those things that simply cannot be changed, this community and Orthodox Judaism come to life. In all, this is a triumphant story told with grace and sensitivity toward a community loved by God and its own citizens regardless of its imperfections. The narrative is richly rewarding as we watch the three main characters come to terms with the nature of their community and find themselves in the process.I loved Alderman's honest depiction of Orthodox Judaism. The community's rigorous efforts to follow God's commands to the letter are astonishing. The characters are unique and engaging. Each faces their own difficulty within the community and within their selves, and it is fascinating to watch them become agents of change within a community that seems unchangeable and come to various degrees of contentment both inside and outside of the community. Additionally, I loved the first part of each chapter which is written in an almost sermon-like format using "we." I found that I appreciated the insight that these few paragraphs in each chapter had into the nature of God and the clues they provided for the larger meaning of the chapters. I really appreciated the format and the inside and out look at the community it provided.more
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