THE OUTSIDE WORLD

Tova Mirvis

Tzippy Goldman was born for marriage. She and her mother had always assumed she’d graduate high school, be set up with the right boy, and have a beautiful wedding. But at twenty-two, Tzippy’s fast approaching spinsterhood. She dreams of escape; instead, she leaves for a year in Jerusalem. There she meets—remeets—Baruch, the son of her mother’s college roommate. When Tzippy last saw him, his name was Bryan and he wore a Yankees-logo yarmulke. Now he has adopted the black hat of the ultra-Orthodox, the tradition in which Tzippy was raised. Twelve weeks later, they’re engaged . . . and discovering that achieving a balance between desire and tradition,

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Tzippy Goldman was born for marriage. She and her mother had always assumed she’d graduate high school, be set up with the right boy, and have a beautiful wedding. But at twenty-two, Tzippy’s fast approaching spinsterhood. She dreams of escape; instead, she leaves for a year in Jerusalem. There she meets—remeets—Baruch, the son of her mother’s college roommate. When Tzippy last saw him, his name was Bryan and he wore a Yankees-logo yarmulke. Now he has adopted the black hat of the ultra-Orthodox, the tradition in which Tzippy was raised. Twelve weeks later, they’re engaged . . . and discovering that achieving a balance between desire and tradition, devotion and individuality isn’t so easy to do.

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  • Vintage Books
  • Paperback
  • May 2005
  • 304 Pages
  • 9781400075287

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About Tova Mirvis

Tova Mirvis grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. She received an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University. She lives outside of Boston with her husband and two children. She can be found online at www.tovamirvis.com.

Praise

“A brilliant evocation of Orthodox life. . . . Beneath the women’s wigs and the men’s black fedora’s, Mirvis finds reservoirs of belief, doubt, ambition, folly, lust and the rest of the human equation.” —The Washington Post Book World

Discussion Questions

How does Bryan/Baruch’s return from Israel change the life of the Miller family? What reactions does he provoke in his father and his sister? When one family member becomes a strict interpreter of the religion that the entire family practices, is he a tyrant or a reformer?

Who is the ideal or intended audience of this novel? Does it seem that Mirvis wants to create a view of this closed community for the outside world or show the Orthodox community a reflection of itself? How do the ideas she explores in the novel about belonging and not belonging, feeling trapped or stifled by one’s family, and the yearning for authen­tic spirituality move beyond the particular community that she describes?

When we meet Tzippy, she is simultaneously dreaming of rebellion against her mother and raging against her unmarried fate. As the novel ends, she is married and pregnant. She hasn’t stepped outside the role for which her family prepared her, but she has changed. How is she dif­ferent? Does the novel suggest that she will live life on her own terms, within the parameters of Orthodoxy, and that she and Baruch will forge a better partnership than her own parents did?

How does the novel show the distance between the women’s and men’s spheres of responsibility in the Orthodox community? Why are the ways of the household, cooking, and child-rearing so crucial to passing on the Orthodox way of life? What aspects of Orthodox life, as described in the novel, might present the most difficult challenges to an educated woman?

Why is Naomi driven to take such an active role in seeking meaning and anwers in her life? What does she expect to find in books, meditation, and seminars on Jewish spirituality What is admirable about her as a character?

Does the ending of the novel suggest that Tzippy will take an active role in healing her own family’s troubles—her mother’s despondency, her father’s dangerously unrealistic dreams, her unguided little sisters? Or will she return to Memphis and take up her own family life, keep­ing a distance from her difficult parents?