The protagonists of most of the stories in this collection are women who live in either the Orthodox or ultra-Orthodox world. Despite their upbringing, they all share a rebellious spirit and a yearning for freedom. They were born under the towering shadow of men in conservative, patriarchal surroundings, where their sole function was to serve males and bear them children - lots of children. Hadas, the protagonist of one of the stories, divorces her husband after 18 years of marriage. She widens the scope of her interests and changes her life. Bat-El, the central character in a story that takes place during Biblical times, dresses up as a young man and joins a group of wandering prophets. Not all of the women take things so far, though - some of them rebel in subtle ways that, nonetheless, afford them freedom.
In the title novella, Abigail`s husband is caught smuggling diamonds and is incarcerated in Moscow`s central prison. Abigail flies to Moscow to see him, but the trip to a foreign country, where she can be utterly anonymous, offers her a chance to stray from the confines of her ordinary life: she flirts with a stranger and refuses to see her husband. After she returns to Israel and her husband has been released, life goes back to normal, but the days of liberty in Moscow linger - they can`t be taken from her. Chava`s unhappy marriage, on the other hand, explodes. When she was young, she fell in love with Villi, a distant relative, but her parents married her off to a stranger. Villi, who remained single, was always around, yet the two never consummated their love. When Chava divorces her husband years later, she finds out that it`s too late: Villi invites her to his wedding. In Rotem`s stories, love and married life are often in conflict.
Powerful narrative… [Rotem has] the ability to move her readers and uses clear, precise writing… The opening novella is excellent.
Judith Rotem, a daring writer originally from the Orthodox world, exposes Orthodox society for repressing women… She writes beautifully.
Clear and refined writing. A touching book.
Author Nava Semel
Selected stories available in English translation (for publishers only)