From Publishers Weekly
The cadence of every conversion narrative is one of lost-and-found, and this edgy memoir by Chotzinoff, a freelance writer and convert to Judaism, does not disappoint. We learn of her rarefied and decidedly secular New York childhood, where music and free-flowing liquor framed intellectual discussions late into the night. This led to a wandering adolescence and young adulthood marked by drugs, sexual promiscuity, depression and binge eating. But Chotzinoff's conversion narrative eschews the traditional sudden epiphany for a gradual, postmodern transformation; when she discovers Judaism at an eclectic Denver synagogue, the change comes across less as a bolt of lightning than a long-desired and tentative homecoming. Her story is also refreshingly devoid of the usual convert's fervor—she considers herself observant, but does not strive to keep every jot and tittle of halakah. As she learns to quilt, make latkes (the low-fat version just won't cut it, she discovers) and keep Shabbat, Chotzinoff uncovers herself anew in the rigors of an ancient faith. Her writing is acerbically funny and generally devoid of sentimentality, which makes the memoir's more powerful moments—such as the haunting beauty of her daughter's bat mitzvah—unexpectedly emotional. (Aug.)
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Chotzinoff was born a Jew in a nonobservant--no, an atheist--family whose credo (imagine a sarcastic shrug) was, "Religion--who needs it?" Apparently, the award-winning Denver columnist did, and here is her engaging, enjoyable account of the transformation involved. At 40, Chotzinoff found in a happy marriage the path to a higher power and embraced Judaism. After a hippie-ish life of drugs and booze--interviewing Frank Zappa along the way and playing keyboards with some Denver bands--she sought stability and married a carpenter, "bought a house, grew tomatoes." The birth of a daughter, a divorce, and a second marriage followed, and she finally found a congregation in the Yellow Pages. In the wake of a four-hour service that left her butt numb but her brain alert, she became engrossed in the concept of the Jewish New Year and the paradox that no two Jews agree on how to conduct the 10-day interval until Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. However, "I was sitting among my own people for a change." Whitney ScottCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved