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Novels about spiritual searches can sometimes touch both mind and heart--but this tale of a young Jewish girl from a well-to-do Toronto family who finds faith and a strengthening Jewish identity will turn off more readers than it inspires. Judith Raphael, not ""popular"" like most of her classmates at the Jewish day school, seems to interest two boys when she is a junior counselor at a summer camp: sexually sophisticated Ori from New York; and Gabriel, a sensitive sort who's trying to reconcile Judaism and yoga. But though Judith says ""no"" to sex, it's Ori whom she loves (and his sister Jessie too)--so she follows him to N.Y., to ""the coast"" (hitchhiking), and then to Israel, certain that he is her life: ""Her hands were a goblet and she poured him over her. . . who was to be her beloved chosen above all others?"" But once in Israel, Judith's drifting attention turns in assorted directions, spiritual and earthly, with a sidetrip to London and doomed courtship by cool, English, non-Jewish James. And finally it's back to Jerusalem, where--surrounded by love from her great-aunt Chenya (Chenya's endearments and wisdom plunk out like honey cakes)--Judith still feels hollow and lost, sure that the love she has given others does no good and leaves her empty. Only with some reminders of the sacred past of Jerusalem (wisdom from sages, her own prayers and meditations) does Judith at last absorb the message of Israel for her: ""Let love dissolve our sins,"" she prays. This closing message pulses with the rhythms of ancient liturgy--but appended to the dull Judith and other blanched characters, it loses the effect it could have had. Thin and overwrought--weak even on the most circumscribed, secular level.

Pub Date: March 25th, 1981
Publisher: Morrow