An elegantly written if slow-paced story about a young female rabbi who suffers a too easily resolved crisis of faith as she ministers to the sick and dying.
Second-novelist Rosen (Eve’s Apple, 1997; The Talmud and the Internet, 2000; etc.) is a serious explorer of Jewish American life today—the role of faith and the past—but though his efforts are admirable and often germane, they tend to drive his plots more than character does. His protagonist here, Deborah Green, is an attractive young Reform rabbi in New York who conscientiously observes all the Jewish laws. Estranged from her physician sister and her nonobservant mother, Deborah, having found comfort and meaning in her religion after her father died, decided to become a rabbi. Now, she meets Lev Friedman while visiting his father Henry in the hospital. Henry, depressed, haunted by memories of the past—in Europe in 1939, as a six-year-old, he was sent to England and never saw his family again—and in poor health, attempted suicide, though a massive stroke intervened. Lev is a science writer who abandoned his bride on her wedding day and now worries that he’s incapable of commitment. Lev and Deborah are drawn to each other and cautiously begin meeting regularly as Deborah encourages Lev to reclaim his Jewish roots. As Henry slowly begins to recover, Lev and Deborah set up house together. But when a deeply distressed elderly and pious woman, who nearly dies, confesses to Deborah that instead of seeing her beloved dead husband she experienced a complete void, Deborah falters. She disappears, leaving a worried Lev, who pitches in for the absent Deborah to protect her job—he even conducts part of a funeral service. Deborah, though, isn’t easily vanquished by doubt.
Again, the ideas take top billing, with the plot a distant also-ran.