Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Ladies Auxiliary

The Ladies Auxiliary by Tova Mirvis

I finished this insightful book just before reading Veiled. It is realistic fiction and describes a close-knit Orthodox Jewish community in Memphis, TN. My friend Mary recommended it (along with many other books that I read. Thanks Mary!).

The characters in The Ladies Auxiliary are delightfully well-rounded. I noticed lots of parallels to the Mormon culture, in both positive and negative ways. (I am a Mormon, btw.) Upheaval erupts in the ladies’ peaceful, picture-perfect community when Batsheva, a lovely, single, free-spirited woman moves into the neighborhood. As the women respond to Batsheva’s mysterious background, eccentricities, and her young daughter, their reactions are both hilariously ironic and sad—ranging from wide-open arms to shunning and demeaning her in public.

I liked the symbolism in the characters' names. I wondered, what connection does Batsheva's name have to the biblical Bathsheba that King David chased after? Could it be in her questionable relationship with the Rabbi's son, the "prince" of the community? Interestingly, all of the ladies are referred to by their first names, except for Mrs. Levy (my favorite character). I wondered if that was the author’s way of mocking her "respectable" position in their society.

And then there is all that food! The descriptions of Jewish holidays and culture are vividly detailed. In the book, each Jewish holiday—and they are numerous—involves loads of food preparation and feasting. I wondered if the gorgeous and overdone displays of food are a symbol of the superficiality of the community—everything beautiful on the exterior, but so many problems and secrets in private. 

The Ladies Auxiliary is a book of many layers and a very interesting read!

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