I'm torn. I want to rate this higher, because I think it's a very important book. It's too easy for Americans to fail to understand just how many universes our country encompasses. The fact, for instance, that there is a group living in New York City and deliberately making sure that its children never become fluent in English was news to me -- it's crucial to know that that's happening, as well as why.
I can also forgive the vagueness of the first sixty pages or so. My husband has read interviews with Feldman, and told me that apparently she's taken some criticism for not mentioning she has a younger sister. She didn't want to include her in the story, which is completely understandable.
The story of Feldman's marriage, pregnancy, experience of motherhood, and shot at a higher education are gripping. Fortunately for the reader, this is the bulk of the narrative.
However, the rushed ending is rather anticlimactic, and really makes you wonder where this young writer's editor was. Spoiler alert: There isn't a single word about Feldman's husband's reaction to her taking their son with her when they divorced. If there's a court case going on and she can't talk about it, she should have said so. If she wants to protect his privacy, she should have said something about wanting to stick to her own story rather than his -- but given the details of their sex life she offers, this seems doubtful.
She simply left the Hasidic community with her son. She mentions a lawyer telling her that this will be impossible for her to do, and dismisses the possibility of any difficulty. On hearing about mothers forced to abandon their children when they abandoned their Hasidic lives, she claims, "I know that I am different from these other women, that I have something they didn't have." That smacks of arrogance, or at least unkindness. Is she saying that these women simply didn't try hard enough, or that they weren't special, like she is? Feldman of all people ought to understand the destructive power of the Hasidic patriarchy. I was under the impression that's why she wanted to leave it behind. Why then does she blame its victims?
This bothers me, and I think I'm right to be bothered. But read the book anyway, because it's important.