by Jordana Horn

How to Separate

Disobedience by Naomi Alderman (Touchstone, $24.00) is a window into a relatively small and insular world — but a world so all-encompassing to its inhabitants that one may need to cross an ocean in order to escape it. Ronit Krushka, daughter of the revered leader of an Orthodox community in Hendon, North London, shook free of the constraints of her upbringing by moving to (where else?) America. Living on the Upper West Side, she exists in flagrant defiance of boundaries of any kind: she works in the “man’s world” of corporate finance, she pointedly ignores the laws of Shabbat, she venerates a psychoanalyst rather than a rabbi, and she has an affair with her (married) boss. It is Ronit’s intentional desecration of definition that makes her a multidimensional character — that, in fact, ultimately defines her. As Alderman writes, “In the beginning… the most important work is of separation. It is of pulling apart the tangled threads. It is of saying, ‘This shall be separate from that…’. It is of setting a line between them.” But when she receives a phone call telling her of her father’s death, the proverbial lines are blurred and Ronit boards a plane to go back to a place she never wants to see again — and to a community that views her as a challenge, a threat and even a sinner.

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