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The Sisters Weiss

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  2,627 Ratings  ·  324 Reviews
In 1950's Brooklyn, sisters Rose and Pearl Weiss grow up in a loving but strict ultra-Orthodox family, never dreaming of defying their parents or their community's unbending and intrusive demands. Then, a chance meeting with a young French immigrant turns Rose's world upside down, its once bearable strictures suddenly tightening like a noose around her neck. In rebellion, ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published October 15th 2013 by St. Martin's Press
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Aug 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
I received a ARC through Goodreads.

This book took me on a journey and introduced me to the inner world of an ultra-Orthodox family. It was enlightening and interesting to read the struggles, responsibilities and choices that the Weiss females make, which ultimately affect the other in some ways or another.

It's always the quiet ones that are the troublemaker ;) Who would have guessed that obedient and understanding Rose would be the one to start off the traditional path and end up cleaving a
Maggie Anton
Feb 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
I know enough about Haredi life so that the depiction here wasn't new for me, but I appreciate that Ragen didn't romanticize it but showed the difficulties it creates for women. I was impressed by how Ragen moved back and forth between decades without loosing the story line; it takes an experienced author to do that well. Though the ending was pat and tied things up a little too easily, I admit to liking a happy ending. I actually wish Ragen had developed the last part of the novel as deeply as ...more
Feb 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Today I finished The Sisters Weiss, by Naomi Ragen. This is a story of familial love, choices, losses and hope. The author is an American Jew who has lived in Israel for more than 40 years, but the book is set in the States. I found it fascinating, sad, beautiful, uplifting, heartbreaking and, ultimately, life affirming. The most extreme Orthodox Jews live lives as foreign to me (a secular, non religious Jew), as any extremist religion or cult, though they are not out to harm anyone, or to infli ...more
Sue Seligman
Aug 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I waited a very long time for Naomi Ragen to write a new novel. She is a modern Orthodox woman who has lived in Israel for most of her adult life, but was born and raised in New York City. I had read her earlier novels, as well as her memoir, all of which depict the traditions of Orthodox Judaism within the context of family life, including the positive and negative aspects of the rules and dogma which delineate the roles of individuals. Naomi Ragen is an outspoken critic of the roles of women i ...more
Marie desJardins
Feb 14, 2014 rated it liked it
I liked the overall story, and the glimpse into ultra-orthodox Hasidic lives. But the "confrontation" scenes between the various sisters/mothers/daughters all felt too pat and simplistic -- the characters kept saying and thinking things that didn't seem to jibe with the complex characters that had been emerged from the interior scenes and sequences, and so every one of the confrontation scenes just jarred and irritated me. Hannah in particular comes across as an ENORMOUS spoiled brat who is comp ...more
The Badger
Oct 31, 2016 rated it it was ok
This is a work in progress. It's never taken me this long to bust through a book before. So far, halfway through, I'm like, "OMFG! THIS is the scandal? The female Greek Orthodox members of my family who were in the US at the time of "the scandal" of this book were busy "visiting relatives" (i.e., too many 1, 2, 3, and 4 o'clock cocktail hours), "going to bingo" (i.e., Yiayia's lover's house), "sending the kids to the family farm for the summer" (i.e., someone's mom is in rehab again), and talkin ...more
Jul 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
A glimpse into the ultra-orthodox world. Naomi Ragen is back to the novels that I loved - Jephte's Daughter, Sotah and the Sacrifice of Tamar. It's hard to believe that in this day and age that some of our people and after all are we not people of the book, choose to not educate our children. But, in the recent publications of I Am Forbidden and Unorthodox (last year) this disturbing issue has come to light. Naomi also focuses on the loss of choice and the insular world where the mentality is ac ...more
Agnes (BeaderBubbe)
Thoroughly enjoyed this book bringing together a religious world and a secular world. The story of the strength of women and their choices. Families that can truly be a family with love, understanding and heart. Only when we truly listen to our heart will we be free. Love Naomi Ragen books. She truly reaches into your heart and mind. This story of an Ultra-Orthodox family where one daughter breaks from tradition and the generations to follow. How Rose's choice affects the people and loves of her ...more
Stephanie Steinberg
Mar 11, 2014 rated it it was ok
The very beginning story about the aunt that took place in the 50's felt real and believable but all the present day stuff was highly unrealistic. Lots of eye rolling moments!
May 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-completed
This book slowed me down into reflection mode – and that isn’t a bad thing from time to time. A brief summary could perhaps best be described by the following quote:

“A Jewish woman must stifle her feelings a thousand times . . . whereas a Gentile woman is capable of drawing near to that which she loves [the Jewish woman] must sacrifice her soul and her freedom.”

One of the characters in the book was studying female Jewish writers and this quote was attributed to a Jewish woman writer in czarist
Nov 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
DJ Sakata
Sep 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
I received a free ARC copy of Naomi Ragen's The Sisters Weiss as a Goodreads first reader. The book had a painful first quarter for me, I did not like Rose's family, I did not like how she was treated, I was frustrated by their choice to continue to live in ignorance in a modern city. I know it was/is typical of the time and of their ultra-Orthodox religion, and the writing was superb, but it hurt my heart. So I had to put it down and read something else for a few weeks. I came back to it and wa ...more
Chana Billet
Oct 14, 2014 rated it it was ok
While the masses are loving this book, I did not. Parts of the novel were enjoyable but, overall, this wasn't one of my favorite books. Unlike "Chains Around The Grass," "The Saturday Wife," "The Covenant" and "Jephte's Daughter," all of which I've read multiple times, this does not beget a second reading.

As always, Ragen has a perfect eye when it comes to depicting the nuances haredi life.

Unfortunately, there was something about how the book was constructed that made me feel like an outsider. I
Reading with Cats
Liked the first half a lot, but all of the Whiney Daughter angst in the second half was annoying. As was the out of left field abortion lecture. Not a favorite.
May 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club
I don't normally find the time to write long reviews about books now a days. However, this one requires that I write a review. Why? Because I finished it in 1 day. Granted I stayed up until 2am to finish it. IT WAS THAT GOOD!

At first I thought this was a true story, but it is historical fiction. However, the lives unveiled are so real that you honestly feel like you need to sit down at the computer and google them when you're done reading. The Author Naomi Ragen is truly a talented, gifted, ins
Nov 16, 2016 rated it liked it
I am a bit conflicted on my feelings about Naomi Ragen's The Sisters Weiss. I enjoyed the overall premise for the story: the conflict between religion, tradition, and aspects of a modern secular life, especially for females. Ms. Ragen does a strong job of portraying both the beauty and the struggles of life for a female in an American orthodox Jewish home. The glimpse she provides into the lives of these women was very well done and I learned some new things. But, I didn't care about the charact ...more
Susan Kaplan
Nov 14, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, religion
I was expecting a lot more from this book. While it provides some insight into the life of the strict Orthodox Jews in the 20th and 21st century, it is nothing new. The story is formulaic - unhappy woman runs away from her wedding and starts a new life, and is cut off from her family (or, it might be said, cuts herself off out of fear) and a generation later, her sister's daughter follows in her path. While the setting is the constraints placed upon women in some American Orthodox Jewish sects, ...more
Sep 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
Finally read a Naomi Ragen novel. It's a fast read but one can get impatient with the plot; Would a 17 year-old girl raised in the insular ultra-Orthodox setting, really, on leaving the community and staying with a cousin, hop into bed with the fist cute guy she finds? Would her aunt, [spoiler] who also left the Orthodox world and gave up her family in doing so, really respond to her niece as she does in this book?
There is a tidy ending, though.
And I did love the expression "frum fatale."
Four stars may be a bit much but this was an interesting glimpse into the life of Orthodox Jewish women with themes of tradition, family, choice and forgiveness. However, I found the characters a bit flat. It was strange to find that while I was thinking, Really, it's 2007 how can this girl know so little, be so naive, is the Orthodox life really so cut off from, for lack of a better phrase, 21st century life? and yet at the same time not caring about ANY of the characters at all. In the plus co ...more
Alyse Morris Bromberg
As a secular Jew, I found it fascinating to get a closer glimpse into the inner world of an ultra-Orthodox family. It was enlightening to read about the women their traditions, responsibilities, families and choices. This is a story of the struggles many of us have of finding our own identity, vs that which we were brought up, the choices, losses, forgiveness and hope that we all experience. Another reviewer asked this question: Would her aunt, [spoiler] who also left the Orthodox world and gave ...more
Aug 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
As with many historical novels, there is a modern-day storyline as well as a flashback. And as is often the case, I fully enjoyed the historical section but not so much the other. The first section of the book just flowed so much more naturally and I cared much more about the characters. However regardless of any weaknesses in the writing, the book overall was a fascinating look into the inner workings of a conservative Jewish community in New York, and the ways that family relationships and con ...more
Jun 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
The Sisters Weiss is a wonderful book by Naomi Ragen. I have waited a long time for her to write another book. I loved Jephte's Daughter. Naomi Ragen has lived in Israel for forty years. She knows about what she writes.
This story takes place in Williamsburg Brooklyn in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish family of the Weiss. Pearl and Rose are the daughters. The book quickly fast-forwards forty years.
The story is about choices, freedom, and how we want to live our lives.
But it is also a huge insight
Mar 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own-on-kindle
3.5 STARS. I didn't love this book but didn't hate it either - the story of two generations of women from an ultra-orthodox family and their struggles to leave their religious families and make their own way in the world.

For me there wasn't much that was new about the lives of the ultra-orthodox and frankly I found some of the descriptions tiring. I feel like the author is confused about her own beliefs and so she goes back and forth from the religious to the secular world almost like she is ar
Nov 17, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very easy read that I sped through in a little more than a day. The relationships are well explored and the photography aspect was relatable, for me. I experienced a mixed response to the ultra-orthodox Jewish culture; it was totally foreign, but interesting. Because of my lack of previous knowledge of Judaism, that content remained distant, though the author immerses her readers deep in that world. I liked this book, but didn't love it. It's worth reading by anyone intrigued with wom ...more
Jan 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Loved the first half. The second half felt kind of forced and I was surprised by the actions of some of the characters based on how they had been developed in the first half. Didn't all seem like what they would really do and/or say. So on the whole, a very promising and not bad, but it didn't quite hold up all the way through.
Tammy Downing
Aug 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone!
Wow! What a great book! The story just grabs you and takes you for a wonderful ride through the world of Orthodox Jewish life from the 1940s to 2011. I love this book! Thanks to Goodreads First Reads contest for picking me to receive it.
Oct 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Intriguing...a glimpse into the world of being Jewish Orthodox in Brooklyn, past and present. A few pages to skip over in the middle of the book. So interesting... tradition, family and forgiveness.
Jun 02, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: gave-up
This is the kind of book I liked when I was a teen, but not interesting to me now......gave up after 15%.
Evelyn Ortiz
Apr 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Loved the book. It gave me an inside look into a way of life and religious beliefs and traditions I with which I was not familiar within the context of a family's life story.
Aug 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Finally: a book that tells two interwoven stories that take place 40 years apart...and does it well!
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Reading Group Gold: The Sisters Weiss Naomi Ragen Discussion Questions 1 5 May 23, 2016 10:59AM  
Would it have been a better book without Rivka? 1 9 May 14, 2014 07:18PM  
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Naomi Ragen is an American-born novelist and playwright who has lived in Jerusalem since 1971. She has published seven internationally best-selling novels, and is the author of a hit play. Naomi also publishes a regular column that deals with Jewish subjects, especially Israel.
More about Naomi Ragen...

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“Mamaleh,” 0 likes
“That was the custom among Ashkenazim of Eastern Europe. Both bride and groom fasted and prayed on their wedding day. Among the Sephardim, it was the opposite. They plied the girl with sweets the whole day to give her pleasure and energy. But that practice made too much sense to the Ashkenazim, who found holiness in suffering.” 0 likes
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