A thoughtful, courageous memoir of family, religion, and self-discovery.


A novelist’s account of how she broke away from Orthodox Judaism to make a new life in the secular world.

Mirvis (Visible City, 2014, etc.) grew up in an observant Jewish family that believed “without God there is no meaning. Without the Torah, there is no goodness.” Though outwardly obedient to the tenants of her faith, she privately questioned the truth of what she was taught. After graduating from high school, the author went to Israel. For one year, she immersed herself in the study of Jewish religious texts and prayed to be forgiven for her willful ways. “I used to be a little bad,” she writes, “but now I was becoming entirely good.” When Mirvis began attending Columbia University, she “made few friends who weren’t Orthodox.” By the end of her senior year, she had married a fellow Orthodox Jew who had none of the dramatic “hard edges” other crushes had possessed in abundance. Fearful of her own rogue impulses, Mirvis strove to be a model Orthodox Jewish wife. She kept Shabbat and a kosher home, and she covered her hair and body according to traditional rules that governed married women. But the inner voice that had caused her to question her faith as a young girl and the self that could not fully reconcile her feminism with Orthodox teachings would not be silenced. Her first “rebellions” consisted of wearing pants and uncovering her hair. They became more pronounced when she began telling stories about Orthodox characters that “wrestled, doubted, and strayed.” Realizing she needed freedom to express a truth that had been trapped within her, she began the difficult journey that led her out of her marriage and away from Orthodox Judaism. The author’s sensitive thematic treatment of belonging and individuality and her candor about the terror she experienced leaving the only community she had ever known makes for moving, inspiring reading.

A thoughtful, courageous memoir of family, religion, and self-discovery.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-52052-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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