GIVING UP AMERICA by Pearl Abraham


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Can Abraham, whose first novel (The Romance Reader, 1995) was a sleeper hit of considerable merit, avoid the sophomore jinx with her second? Again this time, the story concerns a young woman who is moving away from her Orthodox Jewish roots. But those who fear that Abraham is becoming a feminist version of Chaim Potok will be relieved to know that the central dilemma here rests less on the protagonist’s sense of deracination than it does on the gradual dissolution of her marriage. In the prologue, Deena’s father, a devout Hasidic Jew living in Jerusalem, has predicted disaster for her marriage to Daniel, a modern Orthodox man. But in the beginning pages, the couple are seemingly happy, married now for six years, childless yet thoroughly engaged by a new house and jobs. Each is experiencing a slow slippage from the gravitational pull of traditional Judaism (not the abrupt break that characterized The Romance Reader), but this doesn—t become threatening until the marriage founders on the rocks of Deena’s growing suspicions. Is Daniel having an affair with Jill, his gorgeous Gentile coworker? Where is he on those long nights when he comes home late, and why is he constantly throwing Deena together with Jill? Since most of the story is told from Deena’s point of view, the answers to these questions are hard to come by. When Abraham unexpectedly shifts to Daniel’s version of things late in the book, the effect is jarring and emotionally unconvincing, failing to clarify the picture of a crumbling marriage and bringing about a climax that seems attenuated and without impact. A disappointment whose structural woes have the feel of an unfinished draft.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 1-57322-121-X
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Riverhead
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1998


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