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The Ladies Auxiliary (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Paperback – September 5, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The world of this confident, insightful debut novel is the tightly knit Orthodox Jewish community of Memphis, Tenn., a social structure that unravels when an unconventional New York convert settles there with her five-year-old daughter. Newly widowed Batsheva Jacobs is both shockingly modern and fervently spiritual. She lovingly raises her daughter, Ayala, in the Orthodox tradition, but she sings loudly and enthusiastically at shul (perhaps a sign of unseemly ego), visits the mikvah to cleanse herself (an act that raises eyebrows, since she has no husband), and she wears flowing clothes that show her figureAall of which is noted suspiciously by the local women whose common goal is to preserve tradition. In Memphis, where Shabbos dinner includes fried chicken and black-eyed peas, that task isn't easy. Taking a job as art teacher at the girls' school, blonde, green-eyed Batsheva is soon a beloved confidante of the community's female teenagers, but when she allows them to wear makeup and miniskirts on a ski trip, and becomes close to the Rabbi's beloved 22-year-old son, she's the subject of cruel gossip. After one of her students runs away with a non-Jewish, older boyfriend, Batsheva is blamed. The narrator, one of the housewives fiercely protective of the insular community, tells the story in third-person plural: "little changed in this city where we have always lived"Aa statement rendered untrue, of course, as the community breaks into discord. Caught in the middle are Ayala and the respected and goodhearted Mimi Rubin, the rabbi's wife, who begins to believe rumors about her son's attachment to Batsheva, and panics. Generous with humor and compassion, Mirvis paints tenderly nuanced portraits of strong female characters while scrutinizing an entrenched religious subculture whose traditions are threatened by modern temptations. Guilt, passion, prejudice, loneliness and independenceAcommon themes in Jewish literatureAare explored with sensitivity in a gentle story that captures its milieu with tolerant understanding, and plucks the heartstrings. Agent, Nicole Aragi. 7-city author tour. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Life in Memphis's Orthodox community is as it always has been, until a free-spirited widow arrives with her young daughter. Now alone in the world, Batsheva is looking for a close-knit community and has heard that Memphis, the hometown of her late husband, is pleasant. Uninhibited and artistic, she raises suspicion immediately among the Orthodox women in the community. A convert to Judaism, Batsheva observes the holidays and rituals with more joy and abandon than some believe appropriate. When she becomes the art teacher at the Jewish school, the teenage girls finally have a sympathetic ear. Unfortunately, their rebelliousness and the decision of the rabbi's son to leave yeshiva have to be blamed on someone. As the outsider, Batsheva becomes a scapegoat for all the ills in the community. A well-wrought tale of fear and intolerance that is universal.AKimberly G. Allen, MCI Corporate Information Resources Ctr., Washington, DC
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Ballantine Reader's Circle
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; First Edition edition (September 5, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345441265
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345441263
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #52,034 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tova Mirvis is the author of three novels, Visible City, The Outside World and The Ladies Auxiliary which was a national bestseller. Her essays have appeared in the Boston Globe Magazine, the New York Times Book Review, Poets and Writers and Good Housekeeping, and her fiction has been broadcast on National Public Radio. She lives outside of Boston with her three children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I LOVE this book. My book club read it and we had a great discussion. I could identify with all the characters. They are all amazingly well-developed and each one is unique and comes to life. The plot -- a convert moves into a close and insular world -- was fun and filled with suspense. I read it in one sitting because I couldn't want to put it down, (even though my husband kept asking me when I was going to be done reading!)
What made it even more interesting was that I have a friend who lives in the Memphis Orthodox Jewish community, where the novel is set, and she said it's exactly like the way Tovah portrays it in the book. Apparently, the people my friend knows there think they can figure out who all the ladies are. Maybe, but I think I know them too in my own community in New Jersey.
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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Nancy R. Katz VINE VOICE on August 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
This was truly a memorable read made all the more so since a few weeks after reading this book, I listened to the author speak about this book in person.
Like the characters from The Ladies Auxiliaryairy, Tova Mirvis was raised in the Orthodox community of Memphis, Tennessee. And like some of the younger characters from this book, the reader wonders how much Ms. Mirvis questions the way she was raised among Orthodox Jews and their strict compliance to their religion.
The Ladies Auxiliary opens as the women of a suburban Memphis community prepare for the Sabbath or Shabbat, the holiest of days among Jews the world over. Into their midst, arrives Batsheva, a new neighbor. For this is no ordinary new arrival, but the young widow of a former resident of the communtity who comes with a daughter. As if that doesn't set them apart enough, Batsheva is also a convert. Almost from the beginning Batsheva seems different than the other women. It is almost as if she forgets everything they hold in high regard. How can a young woman question what the Laws of Moses and study of Torah (which only the men can do)has taught these women? Batsheva sets herself apart from the religious women and this community in the manner of her dress, compliance to certain household traditions and her attitude towards the other women. But worst of all, Bartsheva goes so far as to question rituals in the synagogue and a woman's right to participate in services. What Batsheva fails to realize is that in her own way she's having an effect on some of the congregation particularly the young Orthodox women she teaches. More importantly, the Rabbis son home from his Rabbinical studies for the summer, spends way too much time talking to Batsheva.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This tale plunges the reader into the midst of a contemporary Orthodox Jewish community as it reacts to the presence of a young widowed convert and her daughter. Batsheva brings a refreshing enthusiastic approach to her chosen religion that acts as a catalyst in the community. Some find her differences dangerous, others are inspired by her actions. Written to reflect the women's view, the story is narrated in a communal voice. Yet each of the many characters is revealed by her own personal truth as she measures herself and her feelings against Batsheva's actions and opinions; the women in the Auxiallary, the high school girls, and finally the rabbi's son. Although it may appear orthodoxy is being challenged by change and modernity, the message gently reminds us that human beings even in orthodoxy must consult their hearts and minds to live a meaningful life. Ultimately both sides are given a sympathetic hearing. Along with a good story, the author paints an affectionate view of holidays and Jewish life.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Kcorn TOP 500 REVIEWER on February 18, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I found this book to be enjoyable reading for several reasons. Not only is the story of a young widow joining an Orthodox community in the South a unique and compelling one but the traditions and values of the Jewish community were intriquing and interesting to read about. The book revolves around a young widow and her young daughter who have moved to Memphis to begin a new life in a neighborhood where all the Orthodox Jews have known each other for years and years. The arrival of the new woman starts tongues wagging and the other women in the community are particularly intrigued by her rather unique ways of behaving - she manages to remain just within the acceptable boundaries of Orthodox Judaism but barely so. She wasn't raised as an Orthodox Jew but converted before her marriage. Even so, her fervor and passion are actually stronger than many of the women who were born and raised in the Orthodox tradition and they often fall short of her whole-hearted adherence and faithfulness to this way of life. There is a great deal of humor in this book and it is clear that the author is familiar with the lifestyle of Orthodox Jews living in the South, from the women's use of, "Shalom, Y'all" to their frequent discomfort with wearing the traditional long skirts and full-sleeved blouses in the heat. I look forward to reading more of this author's books in the future. This had some of the stiffness and erratic flow of a first novel but even so I found it to be a fascinating book to read.
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