THE BOOK OF SEPARATION

Tova Mirvis

The memoir of a woman who leaves her faith and her marriage and sets out to navigate the terrifying, liberating terrain of a newly mapless world

Born and raised in a tight-knit Orthodox Jewish family, Tova Mirvis committed herself to observing the rules and rituals prescribed by this way of life. After all, to observe was to be accepted and to be accepted was to be loved. She married a man from within the fold and quickly began a family.

But over the years, her doubts became noisier than her faith, and at age forty she could no longer breathe in what had become a suffocating existence.

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The memoir of a woman who leaves her faith and her marriage and sets out to navigate the terrifying, liberating terrain of a newly mapless world

Born and raised in a tight-knit Orthodox Jewish family, Tova Mirvis committed herself to observing the rules and rituals prescribed by this way of life. After all, to observe was to be accepted and to be accepted was to be loved. She married a man from within the fold and quickly began a family.

But over the years, her doubts became noisier than her faith, and at age forty she could no longer breathe in what had become a suffocating existence. Even though it would mean the loss of her friends, her community, and possibly even her family, Tova decides to leave her husband and her faith. After years of trying to silence the voice inside her that said she did not agree, did not fit in, did not believe, she strikes out on her own to discover what she does believe and who she really is. This will mean forging a new way of life not just for herself, but for her children, who are struggling with what the divorce and her new status as “not Orthodox” mean for them.

This is a memoir about what it means to decide to heed your inner compass at long last. To free the part of yourself that has been suppressed, even if it means walking away from the only life you’ve ever known. Honest and courageous, Tova takes us through her first year outside her marriage and community as she learns to silence her fears and seek adventure on her own path to happiness.

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  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Hardcover
  • September 2017
  • 320 Pages
  • 9780544520523

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$26.00

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About Tova Mirvis

Tova Mirvis is the author of  three novels: Visible CityThe Outside World, and The Ladies Auxiliary, a national bestseller. Her essays have appeared in various publications, including The New York Times, Boston Globe Magazine, The Huffington Post, and Poets and Writers, and her fiction has been broadcast on NPR. She lives in Newton, Massachusetts.

Author Website

Praise

“With The Book of Separation: A Memoir, Mirvis shifts genres, reveals some of the autobiographical germs of her fiction, and compellingly chronicles the process of separating from Orthodoxy…The respect for intra-Jewish difference that Mirvis models for her children—and for readers—is a precious gift to the Jewish literary world…Beautiful and poignant.”Lilith Magazine

“The author’s sensitive thematic treatment of belonging and individuality and her candor about the terror she experienced leaving the only community she had ever known makes for moving, inspiring reading. A thoughtful, courageous memoir of family, religion, and self-discovery.”Kirkus Reviews

“Mirvis intimately chronicles her divorce and her separation from modern Orthodox Judaism in this bold memoir…Hers is a story of grief and rebirth. She is compassionate and judicious in her portrayal of Orthodox Judaism, even as she describes its repressive attitudes toward women; she discusses the diverse Jewish lifestyles, from Hasidic to secular. Her personal journey makes for an introspective and fascinating story.”Publishers Weekly

Discussion Questions

1. In overcoming her fear of driving, how does Mirvis express overcoming other fears? What are her other fears?

2. What does being “good” mean to Mirvis? How has “leaving” made her question or redefine this term and her identity?

3. How does writing help Mirvis find her way?

4. Why did Mirvis initially strive to follow the rules for being an Orthodox woman, including her decision to wear a “fall”? What, do you think, was the moment, or series of moments, that led to her decision to stop following these rules?

5. How did Mirvis define home within the Orthodox community? How did that definition change once she left?

6. What are some of the ways that Mirvis redefined her role as a mother when she decided to leave the Orthodox community? How did this change her relationship with her children, if at all?

7. How did Mirvis’s definition of freedom change as she continued her journey with the Orthodox community? As a partner and a mother? What were some of the moments that helped her redefine freedom?