I had incredibly mixed feelings about this one. On one hand: I could not put it down. On the other hand: I felt really fucking manipulated.
Leah Kaplan grew up in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community (Yeshiva). As a child, she loves her siblings, respects her mother, adores her father. But most of all, she worships God. She is taught that her one true path is to become a mother and support her husband – that will be the life to honor God – and she believes it through and through. So what happens when this young girl hits puberty and her life plan is placed at odds with new interests and urges? Shit hits the fan, of course.
It starts with Naftali. Her neighbor-friend’s brother is older, wiser, more progressive and, of course, a hottie. Seeking access to his thoughts and his bod, she begins exchanging letters with Naftali, which, mind you, is 100% against the rules. This transgression becomes the first of many and she quickly finds herself sliding downhill and out of her family’s circle of trust. Her parents send her off to study religion, the norm for someone her age. While she’s away her mistakes, and regrets, pile up. As the phone calls from her mother and father dwindle, she finds herself lost in a sea of strangers.
So she eventually becomes a prostitute?
I so wanted to like this book. I wanted to grow to respect Leah, but I never got there. At the end of the day, she has major daddy issues, which she essentially admits, because of her ultra-Orthodox upbringing. Ok cool. She doesn’t know how to relate to men because of her ultra-Orthodox upbringing. Yup, daddy issues. She has no tools to deal with her impulses because of her ultra-Orthodox upbringing. Sure, sounds about right. She can’t learn to take responsibility for her actions because of her ultra-Orthodox upbringing. Hm.
Here’s the thing. I can get on board with the stunted personal development and the lack of common sense (they don’t tell you about STDs in Yeshiva). I can sympathize with her feelings of loneliness, helplessness and despair. I can understand that I simply can not understand. And still, I felt manipulated.
It’s not just men. It’s not just God. It’s not just everyone else and not you. It’s life. People have left ultra-Orthodox communities before you and people will continue to do so. At the end of the day (or book), your family still speaks to you. Your family still loves you, in its own way…so I’ve heard a lot worse. The fact that I can’t really feel for you is a testament to how terribly you come off in this book. And you wrote it.
I’ll get off my soapbox now. Apparently this one pushed some buttons.
I gave it a 3 because it’s an interesting story, I learned a little bit, and I truly did want to know what was going to happen. Otherwise it’d be lower.
Book: Cut Me Loose: Sin and Salvation After My Ultra-Orthodox Girlhood
Author: Leah Vincent
Type: Coming of age [from a Yeshiva community] memoir
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