My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I remember many years ago hearing a rabbi say, "If someone tells you, 'This is what Jews believe!', move quickly in the opposite direction."
There are many misconceptions about What Jews Believe, or what they practice, even (or especially) within their own community, so I approached this story with some trepidation.
To my relief and pleasure, Ms. Parker got it right. The tension between the BT & FFB communities, the misunderstanding and anger that can develop in families when someone becomes more observant and Shomer Shabbat, the difficulty in communication in a society where men and women have very different, but no less worthy, spheres of interaction--it's all here.
More importantly for the purposes of the tale, there's an emphasis on the joyous interaction that can happen within the boundaries of marriage and observance of niddut (separation for part of the month). Too many authors writing about religious societies only focus on their perception of restriction and repression.
In this regard, Tzipporah (literally, "Birdie") is an excellent narrator. She teaches a comparative religion class at a university and emphasizes the commonality of religious practice. But her secret longings have made the divorcee hesitant to marry again, even though she wants a family to have a full life within her Orthodox community.
Elan is the neighborhood butcher and when his name is mentioned to Tzipporah, something clicks. He excites her, but it's not until their wedding night that she broaches the subject of her desire for BDSM as a sub, and this is where one sees that Elan's her b'shert (destined love), for he has the same desires as a Dom. Talk about a match made in Heaven!
The novella is thoughtful, complex, and erotic. I would give it 4.5 stars if I could. The only reason I didn't give it a full five stars is the crisis at the end seemed a little rushed--I would have enjoyed a bit more pacing to bring the story to its full conclusion, but the author may have been constrained by the limits of the novella framework.
Nonetheless, I heartily recommend this tale. In fact, I'd love to see it in the kalla class curriculum, though I know that's unlikely to occur.[g]
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