A somewhat slack debut about a young woman who comes to terms with death, love, and history.
Leora is a nice Jewish girl from no place special (well, New Jersey), and her childhood is typical of any middle-class suburban girl’s in its events and aspirations. Perhaps it’s this very ordinariness that drives her interest in her religion; or perhaps it’s the fact that her best friend Naomi died while they were both sophomores in high school. Leora writes for the school paper and goes off to college, where she is exposed for the first time to people from very different places and backgrounds than hers. She falls in love with Jason, a nonobservant Jew who likes to work with the elderly. She also becomes friends, sort of, with Bill Landsmann, who was Naomi’s grandfather. Bill grew up in Vienna and fled the Nazis as a young man—first to Amsterdam, then New York. Naomi’s great-great-grandmother Leah, on the other hand, grew up near Kiev and settled in New York around the turn of the century. When Leora finishes college, she moves to Manhattan, takes an apartment on the Upper West Side, and finds work as a magazine reporter. She has long since broken up with Jason but runs into him one day in the Matzoh aisle at Costco and learns that he married an Orthodox Jew and now works in his father-in-law’s diamond business. This is something of a shock for Leora, but later, at a Spinoza conference in Amsterdam, she meets Jake, a history professor from Columbia. Jake tracks Leora down once he’s back in Manhattan and asks her out. Eventually, he buys her a diamond—from none other than Jason.
Earnest but immature: a story that’s thoroughly well-intended but that generates too little drive or drama to rise to the next level.