Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Sotah by Naomi Regan
This one is about an Orthodox Jewish woman living in Jerusalem struggling to make sense of the world she lives in. She struggles to make the reality of the world fit the fantasy image she’s always been told the world is. The girl in this book is told to deny herself of everything she’s ever felt or wanted out of life. She’s told to form herself into a perfect model of everyone else and any individuality is not encouraged. She is told that this is the only way to show her devotion to her religion and keep away from temptation because that is the way God intends it to be.
She learns in the end, however, that it is not God or her religion that says these things but a group of foolish people who decide to interpret God’s word this way. She is accused of adultery and sent away to rectify her perceived wrong doings. It is here in the Western world that she finally learns the truth about her religion and is able to demand things for herself.
The story was good and an easy read. You learn all about traditional Jewish culture, a complex and often bizarre place that I had no idea about. While I respect different culture and found it fascinating to learn about, I was often angry about the limitations and expectations placed on these Orthodox women. They are made to work very hard (much like women of a century ago, this seems strange to me in the modern world we live in) to support their very large families (they give birth to as many as 15 children) and live in poverty while their husbands study the Talmud for their place in heaven (in some cases the only work the men do, this is also strange to me). The women of this region live shorter, harder, more brutal lives than their husbands.
In the end of the book, the author talks of how she attended a woman’s conference and met women from all around the world. These women came from different backgrounds and she found that fundamental religious women of different faiths had more in common than modern women of the same faiths. These women also discussed how they share the common theme of the men in their culture attempting to control and limit their lives by justifying it with religion (a religion that to these women says nothing about control or dominance but advocates equality and love).
Overall, I liked the themes in this book and the relationships of the women to one another. We see mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, lovers, husbands, traditional, non traditional, western and non western relationships all mixed together and relying on one another to make it through the rough times in life. The trials and disappointments these women face, while completely different at times, are also universal concerns about one’s role in life and the place of religion, duty and love in that life. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a good read about a woman from another culture striving to find herself.