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The romance reader
Pearl Abraham
Adult Fiction ABRAHAM

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Abraham shows strong talent in her debut novel, the story of a young girl's coming-of-age in an ultraorthodox Hasidic home. The reader soon cares deeply about narrator Rachel, the eldest of six children, who yearns for some of the forbidden fruits of the secular world. Her rebbe father is another endearing character; he dreams of establishing a major synagogue and learning center even while he desperately looks for a 10th man for a minyan for his sparse congregation. Most of the story takes place in a suburban community that receives an influx of Hasidim in the summer months; for the rest of the year, the rebbe's family is the neighborhood curiosity. Rachel is a dutiful child who tries hard to please her mother, an angry woman who belittles her husband's dreams and wants to be part of one of Brooklyn's larger Hasidic enclaves. Rachel's glimpses of the larger world come from casual and often uncomfortable encounters with non-Jews and secular Jews in her town, but especially from romance novels, which she reads secretly. Her seemingly flagrant behavior (she refuses to wear seamed, opaque stockings, opting instead for seamless, and will not wear a cover-up over her bathing suit while teaching young girls to swim) brings shame to her family and endangers a marital opportunity for her brilliant younger brother. Despite her resolve to establish a more independent life, Rachel agrees to an arranged marriage, both to make her family happy and as a first step toward a new existence. When this match goes awry, Rachel's solution is both funny and bittersweet. Abraham's intense, sensitive prose and her ability to create vivid scenes and memorable characters augment this authentic, often disturbing, look at Hasidic home life and beliefs. Literary Guild featured alternate; author tour. (Aug.). (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Suzanne Toren's heartfelt reading of this first-person narrative lends authentication to this fascinating novel (Riverhead, 1995). In Rachel's Hasidic world, the women wear dark clothes and opaque stockings, even at the beach. Women appear demure to the point of submissiveness. But are Hasidic Jews really so different? Perhaps not. Rachel, a rabbi's daughter, is supposed to set a good example for the community. Unfortunately, she doesn't fit comfortably into the mold that has been chosen for her. However, crossing the line between devout and modern doesn't create instant happiness. Nor does education. Rachel is a voracious reader, and her dreams are embellished upon by the stories she reads. We follow Rachel from teenager into adulthood, from hope to disillusionment. Toren's accents evoke the old country. Although the book becomes repetitious toward the end, the uniqueness of the story makes it compelling. A good purchase for larger fiction collections.‘Jodi Israel, Norwood, Mass. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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main characters Rachel
Age: 12
Dutiful; eldest of six children; rabbi's daughter.

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