Levy’s endearing debut novel examines the high-stakes world of New York’s Jewish dating scene, where marriages are “nothing personal”—they’re “just business.”
In a tightknit Brooklyn neighborhood populated by competitive Jewish families, parents rush to find partners for their offspring before they reach childbearing age, while their children hope to marry their perfect match, their true love, their “bashertes.” Levy’s witty look at a group of observant young women “available for marriage” centers around Rachel, a 19-year-old Fashion Institute of Technology student who dreams of being an artist; her best friend, Leah, who’s forced to listen to Lady Gaga on a secret iPod because her mother is so “frum” (devout); Hindy, a 23-year-old bookkeeper surrounded by family, but punishingly alone; and Ilana, a glamorous Israeli transplant who falls in love with a man whose mother shuns her. The novel begins at a chatty smorgasbord before a prearranged Orthodox wedding; Levy makes the occasion as effective as an Edith Wharton ballroom scene, using it to set up a deceptively clever story. The novel concludes with the main characters sitting shiva together, still arguing over the purpose of marriage and romance and love. Whether describing the thrill of finding a “two piece, blue knit Chanel suit” half-price at Loehmann’s or the challenges that confront an observant Jewish artist working feverishly to finish a painting by sundown, Levy’s observations and dialogue are razor-sharp. Ultimately, the tale revolves around the age-old, universal conflict: what others expect of us versus what we expect of ourselves. In Levy’s able hands, lessons flow from the heart and observations from the soul—without schmaltz.
A funny, deeply affecting comedy of manners and marriage.