BY DEBORAH FELDMAN
‘Unorthodox’ was a 2020 Netflix blockbuster watched in the first lockdown leading to book clubs and readers clamouring to buy the memoir. In the absence of bookshops the tables have turned on literature, as the inspiration to read this in the Den sprung from its Netflix success. Den readers were blown away by Deborah Feldman’s incredible and brave retelling of her escape from a religious sect of Hasidic Judaism. Starting and finishing in New York the memoir is quite different from the film series. But there was no debating on the book scores. 9/10 all round.
First published in 2012, the author’s story is a compelling account of a young women’s escape from her ‘closed’ community in Williamsburg New York that followed a strict code of enforced customs governing everything from what she could wear, to whom she could speak to and how (only in Yiddish), to what she was allowed to read. It was her love of reading and its literary characters that helped the writer to escape her life –‘if only I could have books all the time’. Trapped as a teenager in a sexually and emotionally dysfunctional marriage to a man she barely knew, the tension between Deborah’s desires and her responsibilities as a good Satmar girl grew more explosive until she gave birth at nineteen and realised that, regardless of the obstacles, she would have to forge a path to happiness and freedom.
Although from a loving family, the author recognises she is different from the community in which she was born into. Deborah gets a lucky opportunity when she is allowed to attend Sarah Lawrence College where her education and friendships offer her a life-line.
Available in paperback. It is definitely a WOW read.