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Exodus: A Memoir Hardcover – March 25, 2014
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In this follow-up to her New York Times–best-selling memoir Unorthodox (2012), Feldman positions herself as the quintessential wandering Jew. Exodus tells the story of Feldman’s journey of self-discovery, which takes her from the American South to the Jewish ghettos of Old World Europe. Along the way, Feldman both meets and is alienated by Jews and Gentiles alike, falls in and out of love with a redneck (complete with motorcycle and shotgun collections), travels across continental Europe, and visits the tiny Hungarian village where her ancestors were born, always trying to find her own sense of identity separate from the strict Hasidic sect in which she was raised. Feldman’s journey is undeniably and explicitly Jewish, but the aching need to find both a welcoming community and a sense of individuality is one that readers from all walks of life will be able to identify with. Those left unsatisfied with the abrupt ending to Unorthodox will enjoy the more hopeful conclusion to Feldman’s second book as well as her more mature and increasingly eloquent writing style. --Rebecca Hayes
“One woman's search to understand herself and her Jewish heritage….Rich in details of Jewish life and the lives of her grandparents in the World War II era, [Feldman] sensitively portrays the inner struggles of accepting the pervasive feeling of survivor guilt and her own desires to understand the woman she was becoming. Feldman juxtaposes painfully emotional moments in concentration camps and in European towns where evidence of Jewish settlers was practically erased with humorous, almost macabre playacting scenarios with a German lover, scenarios that only added to Feldman's confusion over her own identity. The overall effect is captivating, entertaining and informative, providing readers with an honest assessment of the strength of one's convictions and the effect a strict religious background can have on a person. An enthralling account of how one Orthodox Jewish woman turned her back on her religion and found genuineness and validity in her new life.”—Kirkus
“Feldman’s journey is undeniably and explicitly Jewish, but the aching need to find both a welcoming community and a sense of individuality is one that readers from all walks of life will be able to identify with. Those left unsatisfied with the abrupt ending to Unorthodox will enjoy the more hopeful conclusion to Feldman’s second book as well as her more mature and increasingly eloquent writing style.”—Booklist
“Overall, Exodus is a satisfying sequel to Unorthodox, which shows how Deborah Feldman went on to the next step after getting her own freedom from the bonds of a strictly insular society….[a] chronicle of a continuing journey of self-discovery…There are many satisfying finds and revelations along the road, but there are also plenty of bumps, frustrations, disappointments and pitfalls, which is expected when one spends their formative years being closed off from the rest of the outside world, and is confined to the boundaries of a Brooklyn neighborhood….this book is more about the liberation of Deborah Feldman, and how she copes with this newfound sense of freedom and self-discovery, that can be a shock to some, or a declaration of independence for others.”
—Stuart Nulman, Montreal Times
“In her first memoir, Unorthodox, Feldman made the courageous choice to cut off ties with her family and the Satmar community of Williamsburg, Brooklyn…Now a divorced woman in her 20s, Feldman chronicles the next phase of her life in her new book [Exodus]….a quest of self-discovery…Some of the most powerful scenes come when Feldman retraces the path of her female ancestors in Hungary and confronts the anti-Semitism of contemporary Europe….Feldman ultimately discovers that her rightful place is wherever she happens to be.”
—The New York Times Book Review
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Top customer reviews
1 - I found the storyline didn't flow -- it kept going back and forth through time, and it just wasn't coherent. It was a jumble of thoughts and journeys, all thrown into a bit with little separation, so one could easily get confused.
2 - Where did she get this kind of money to spend so much time traveling? It's amazing all of the places she went to in such a short amount of time -- especially while she had Isaac. True, Isaac might have spent a fair amount of time with his father while Ms. Feldman was away, but we don't actually know how often Isaac actually sees his father; from the way she made it seem at the beginning, it didn't feel like Isaac was seeing him all of that much.
3 - It was a bit redundant, pointing out many of the same things over and over again throughout the book.
4 - In each chapter, I wasn't exactly sure why the chapter was called that. I did not feel that the stories and ideas she articulated corresponded with the title of each chapter. (And if it did correspond, I did not understand the connection between the content in the chapters as well as the actual chapter). Not only that, but with each chapter ending, I felt like that was a way to just end the story -- and then it just continued with something else, only to, mid-chapter, bring it back to a point from a previous chapter. Once the book ended, I just felt very confused -- where was the true closure, to close the book and feel like everything truly came together, at the end? I understand that finding oneself is a lifetime of work, and that it's never complete, but the end of the book just didn't seem to make sense; it felt like there was a previous part that would have been a better ending to the book, and that she just ran out of things to say.
5 - I apologize if this offends some people, but I found it disturbing that while she throws away her Satmar upbringing, she instead goes to the opposite extreme -- of dating and sleeping with different men throughout her journey in Europe, including a descendent of a Nazi! Even if he was a very nice person, and had true remorse for what the Nazis did, I just did not feel comfortable with it and I was not happy reading about it. There are ways to rebel against one's community without handling it the way she did.
6 - I really would have liked to have seen more about how she decided to bring up her son, her relationship with her son as she left the Satmar community, as well as a bit of her relationship with her ex-husband, the father of her son -- and how her ex-husband handles the fact that she is no longer among those in the community. Is he still part of the community? How do they communicate with one another? How does her son communicate with his father? I would have found it just as interesting in her relationship with them as she discovers herself as she does on her journey through Europe and to her grandmother's old home.
Even with all of my negatives, I actually did enjoy the book and found it interesting and in some ways, courageous. It was interesting to get glimpse of some of the type of people she met on her travels and it was a relatively easy read.