Friday, August 16, 2013

May/June 2013

Life seems to be getting more and more hectic, limiting our ability to find dates on which everyone can meet. We'd planned to meet in May, but because Alison was sick that week, we postponed our meeting until June - and we managed to get everyone there except Holly, who was with her sick son. While we enjoyed the sandwiches, soups, and salads at Café Zupas, we had a great discussion of the themes of Tova Mirvis's The Ladies Auxiliary.

The book got 4 stars from our group.

Alison said: This thought-provoking novel about the Memphis Orthodox Jewish community has a lot of application to other close-knit and/or religious communities, particularly those with high expectations for their children. Focused on the women in the community, the novel also provides an opportunity for reflection on women's relationships with each other and about the roles women play in a society, either by choice or by convention.

As a life-long member of the Mormon (LDS) community and having married twenty-five years ago into the Japanese-American culture, I have thought often about such issues as community values versus individuality, the need to understand the "whys" behind religious practices in order to be more fully committed to them, and ways to instill traditions and beliefs unto one's children. As a feminist, I am particularly interested in the impact of those issues on women.

Sue said: This is an intellectual story and not chick-lit so I really liked the themes and thought-provoking messages. It was told from the POV of the collective, a plural "we", so that the idea of the newcomer coming to town and not being part of the community was always at the forefront of the reader's mind. It was an interesting way to write the novel and made it seem as though all the women felt the same way about everything, but really underneath, they all had different viewpoints. I found the lack of male influence quite interesting. The Rabbi, as the most important person in the community, was around and had a little personality, as well as his son, but the other husbands were almost absent. They were referred to obliquely, but they were always off doing something religious or working and thus the women were left to "manage the community". They never seemed to discuss things with their husbands and there were several comments throughout the novel of the women having to deal with things on their own. I wondered if this was a Jewish phenomenon or simply a Jewish Memphis one.

The book raised many questions on religion and personal choices, faith, parenting, friendship, and community that were interesting and made me think.

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