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The Book of Separation: A Memoir

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  1,019 Ratings  ·  192 Reviews
The memoir of a woman who leaves her faith and her marriage and sets out to navigate the terrifying, liberating terrain of a newly mapless world.

Born and raised in a tight-knit Orthodox Jewish family, Tova Mirvis committed herself to observing the rules and rituals prescribed by this way of life. After all, to observe was to be accepted and to be accepted was to be loved.
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 19th 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Laura During the religious ceremony, or sefer kritut—known informally as a
"get", when she faces the rabbis and receives her religious divorce, marked by a…more
During the religious ceremony, or sefer kritut—known informally as a
"get", when she faces the rabbis and receives her religious divorce, marked by a parchment paper document.(less)

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Elyse Walters
Sep 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish women -Hasidic women - belong to sectarian communities, worshipping and working as followers of specific rebbes-they are set apart from assimilated, mainstream Jews.

Here in America....In 2017....this is a lifestyle choice that many men and women follow.

Hasidism -( a word Tova Mirvis doesn’t use in her memoir yet is the Hebrew word for Ultra-Orthodox Judaism)......or a radical movement of Judaism which reaches back as far as the 18th century. The emphasis is
Julie Ehlers
The entire time I was reading The Book of Separation, one particular question kept haunting me. Not a particularly nice or charitable question, admittedly, but it haunted me nonetheless. Specifically, If a person spends her teens, 20s, and 30s living in a restrictive culture and does her best to conform to that restricted culture, at what point has she forfeited her opportunity to become an interesting, mature, grown-up person?

Well, I told you it was a rather uncharitable question. I don't know
Tova Mirvis broke from Orthodox Judaism at the same time that she divorced her husband, but her strict faith and her marriage had both been dissolving for a long time. Every time she chafed against wearing a hairpiece and a hat to synagogue, every time she resented having to check that all was prepared so she wouldn’t have to so much as turn on a light on the Sabbath, she drifted a little further from the religion that had previously given her so much of her personal and familial identity. “Doub ...more
Sharon Hart-Green
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautifully written book about an exceedingly sad topic: the dissolution of a marriage and the loss of religious faith. I should point out, however, that the author does not indulge in gratuitous criticism of either her ex-husband or her religion (to which she still adheres in a new way.) This book might be a difficult read for those who are religious, but I actually think it would be a great catalyst for discussion for all those of religious faith.
Booksandchinooks (Laurie)
Sep 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
When I first heard about this book I contacted the author about receiving an ARC for review, which she kindly sent. All opinions are my own. I always find it fascinating to learn about other people's religion and belief systems and I love books about family so the premise of this book intrigued me. This book is a memoir written by Tova Mirvis. Tova was raised in the Orthodox Jewish faith. I didn't know too much about this faith before this book, but was interested in learning more about it. This ...more
Jul 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: me, nonfiction
I appreciated her message but it felt a bit repetitive.
Aug 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jewish, memoirs
Having read a few other books about women leaving Orthodox Judaism, I knew I would breeze through this one, since I find the topic so interesting. The fact Tova Mirvis also appeared to be emotionally intelligent, unlike another author or two, also convinced me I was on my way through her story at top-notch speed. Things don’t always happen as predicted, though, and about one-fourth of the way through her memoir I realized something--I was bored. What other books did I have to read? Maybe I could ...more
Sep 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
I received a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Two and a half stars.

Tirvis' story of leaving her religious community and her marriage is, at heart, a compelling one, and I found myself drawn into the complexities of her life in the initial chapters of the book. As the book progressed, though, there seemed to be a lack of cohesion and organization that resulted in me losing interest in her story. At times, she begins sharing a memory, segues into another story, and then abruptly shifts
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley, 2017
Rarely do I encounter a memoir that I earmark to re-read again in the future, yet The Book of Separation is that one. With beautiful prose that long-time fans will recognize from her fictional works, Mirvis unravels the threads of her marriage and her faith. It's a story of losing one's religion in order to be free, but it's also a story of Mirvis leaving her marriage to live more truthfully.

What I loved about this book is that it does not rely on saccharine language or self-deprecation in her s
Jul 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Tova Mirvis lived most of her life as an Orthodox Jew. She kept the traditions and the dutiful life that a woman of this faith lives but she feels like she doesn't really belong. One day she decides to divorce her husband and begin her life anew. This is her story. I learned a great deal about Orthodox Judaism from reading this memoir. The author is a very good writer and uses good language and imagery. My complaint about this book was that it felt like it took me a very very very long time to r ...more
Jennifer S. Brown
Beautifully written memoir of Mirvis's experience grappling with her religious beliefs and with the strictures of the Orthodox Jewish community.
Kelly Nicole
This book was AMAZING! I’ve wanted to learn about Orthodox Judaism for a while and this was definitely the best way to. The author explains the religion and also provides her criticism of her previous religion and how it didn’t mix with her personality and her beliefs. The book is back and forth in time but its amazing and SO EDUCATIONAL! There’s no doubt about how brave she is for making such drastic changes in her life where she knew she’d upend her entire life and she not only did it anyway, ...more
Lisa Nelson
Feb 21, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, religion
2.5 stars

This book is really difficult for me to rate. Memoirs and autobiographies are so personal that it feels unkind to throw harsh judgments at the author. I guess that is one of my biggest gripes with this book; the author feels like she left out huge chunks of what was going on in her life and what she was feeling making it way less personal. I absolutely understand that the reasons she did not go in depth were to protect her ex-husband, children, and community members, but it left me feel
Jan 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very fascinating. Crazy interesting parallels between Mormonism and Orthodox Judaism.
Jan 19, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Having read Mirvis' fiction, I was not surprised to find this book fairly well written. But if you're going to write a memoir, a little introspection is in order. At some point, perhaps after reading "I want to be free" for the billionth time, I would have liked to know, free from what? To do what? Now that she's eaten nonkosher pizza, is life going to be perfect?
Dec 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
I had heard about this book from more than one friend and I judged it based on second-hand information. I’m glad I read it – it’s a much better way of forming an opinion.

First of all, I thought it was well written: the thoughts were clear, the sentences were strong, the similes and metaphors appeared in just the right doses. This was striking to me because if not for the writing, this book could’ve been trite; As a middle-aged member of the modern Orthodox community, I’ve seen enough family, fri
May 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Overall, I thought it was interesting and thought-provoking, especially since there were so many moral parallels to Mormonism. Orthodox Judaism seemed kind of like being Mormon with 100 times more rules to follow. Sometimes the book felt a little self-indulgent as memoirs can be... "and then I stepped out into the rain with tears falling from my eyes..." I made that up, but I just mean the minute step-by-step detailing of her every thought, feeling and action. And maybe sometimes overly dramatic ...more
Feb 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I haven't highlighted as much text since college, than I did reading this. This is a beautifully written memoir of a woman leaving Orthodox Judaism. Having been on a similar journey myself out of a different, but equally demanding religion, this book spoke to me on a very personal level, and I could relate to her experiences so much. The human experience really is shared, and I loved reading Mirvis' story that mirrored my own in so many ways.
Joey Gremillion
Jul 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Superb!! Many people who leave Orthodox Judaism, particularly Hasidism, write about their experiences with bitterness and leave out any joy or happiness that they might have experienced in their lives. Is it possible to have ZERO positive life experiences? I think not. Tova Mirvis writes frankly about leaving Orthodoxy without badmouthing her old life. I am a HUGGGGEEE fan, now. Kudos. I HIGHLY recommend.
Emily Goenner
Mar 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
A little hard to rate this book, for me. Parts of it touched me deeply, since I can relate so closely to the pain of separation, leaving, losing what you hoped for. Even parts of the effect of Orthodoxy I could understand, interestingly, such as fighting the rules that had become the voices in her own head, and struggling with growing up "good" or "bad." On the other hand, sometimes there was just too much religion for this non believer.
Dec 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My introduction to Tova Mirvis came while reading her novel, *The Ladies' Auxiliary* about an Orthodox community in Memphis. If that sounds like an oxymoron, please remember that my Jewish raisin' took place in Knoxville. Southern Jews talk a certain cadence that's unique to the blend, and Tova Mirvis captured the voice perfectly. I thought I was in Knoxville again. Mirvis' ladies sounded a lot like Jeanne Gudis, Faye Gluck, Esther Webster and Becky Winston, even if we are Reform. Y'all say Shal ...more
Feb 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
As a fan of Tova Mirvis's fiction works, I had high expectations for this memoir. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite what I wanted it to be.

I think the problem is that I wanted to know more. I felt like she didn't go deep enough. There's so much more that she could have said about wanting out of her marriage, out of her religion. It seemed like we mostly got an overview.
Dr. Harold
Dec 09, 2017 rated it did not like it
Dissing Orthodoxy: Critical Review of The Book of Separation

There is a fast-growing oeuvre of books and movies by Jews opting out from their religiously observant lives. Two new works are from Netflix, One of Us, and The Book of Separation (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017), a memoir from bestselling novelist Tova Mirvis. The Book is hardly a spiritual journey eloquently described to anguished parents, spouses, and readers by other writers. This is a Book of Selfishness.

The journey, as Mirvis cal
Linda Zagon
Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My Review of “The Book of Separation” by Tova Mirvis

Kudos to Tova Mirvis, Author of “The Book of Separation” for such an honest, emotional and courageous Memoir. Can you imagine questioning why things have to be a certain way? Or imagine thinking of leaving a toxic situation, but are too afraid of what the unknown is? Or being so unhappy, and afraid of the consequences of making a change?

In “The Book of Separation, Tova Mirvis writes a memoir about leaving her marriage and the Orthodox Jewish ru
This was a fascinating account of one woman’s escape from a unhappy marriage, and a religion full of laws she no longer felt comfortable with.

I was drawn to this book as I’d been through a similar experience when I left my church community a few years ago. As I was reading this I was nodding my head, and also cringeing as I remember having had the same experiences as the author. I too went through the same feelings of relief and worry about not believing in the same way anymore. I remember worry
Apr 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
This is going to be a scathing review. However, I will give the author credit where it is due - she stirred emotions in me and that has to count for something. Negative emotions. But emotions nonetheless. And if a book can do that then it has some value. It means it at least challenged you to some extent.

[It is difficult to review a memoir in some respects since there are 2 aspects to this type of book: the actual event/story that is being recounted and the stylistic/artistic merits of the way t
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir-bio
Author's memoir about leaving her Jewish Orthodox faith and divorcing her husband

Tova Mirvis married in her early twenties. She made it to forty before she finally broke free of her religion. She also got a divorce since her husband is a devout Jewish man. Her stories of worrying constantly about what everyone thought about her - both before and after the break - sound a familiar bell in my mind. Tova asks some good questions: if you follow the 'rules' of religion faithfully, is that enough? Wh
Pam Cipkowski
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A few years ago, Tova Mirvis wrote an essay in the New York Times about her divorce. I expected to stop reading it after a few sentences, thinking a Jewish woman’s experience would be different from mine. But the unwitting following of “the rules,” the feeling of being trapped, the shame, and then the relief, and becoming the person I needed to be...that’s how it felt for me, too. Mirvis has since come out with a memoir, expanding on this essay and detailing the heartbreaking journey she took th ...more
Apr 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
I am always intrigued by stories of how people are able to leave the world they have been raised in.

Fascinating book about a woman leaving her life as an orthodox jew (modern). How do you leave a life you have been raised to believe?

Tove begins to feel the strain of the strict rules/laws of Orthodox Judaism. Her journey leads her away from orthodoxy and her marriage. This is made more complicated because she has children. I loved that her family was supportive - even if they didn't understand.
Oct 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
It was difficult to separate (ta da ching) this book from another recent Jewish memoir that I'd read, Abigail Pogrebin's MY JEWISH YEAR. Both of these memoirs follow the course of a year, often touching upon Jewish holidays. But while Pogrebin's memoir is about connecting more fully to Jewish rituals in an oft-progressive setting, Mirvis's is about leaving the strict rituals and life of Orthodoxy.

Also throughout the essays in the memoir, Mirvis gives a backstory to her religious life, from child
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Goodreads Librari...: Please combine: The Book of Separation by Tova Mirvis 3 16 Jul 23, 2017 05:47PM  
I grew up in the small Orthodox Jewish community in Memphis, Tennessee, where I felt both what was grounding about being part of a such an enclosed world as well as what was stifling. This became the subject of m first novel, The Ladies Auxiliary, which I started writing when I no longer living in Memphis. Being away from home enabled me to look back and it and explore my own ambivalence about bel ...more
“Be good, said this teacher. be good, the community said. Be good, my name reminded me. But could the inside of your mind be made to conform as readily as your body could - your thoughts covered with the equivalent of a long skirt? I knew without needing to be told that an indispensable part of being good was a willingness to hid what you really thought. There was one way to be good and there were infinite ways to be bad.” 2 likes
“I wanted to be moved but it was a performance I'd seen too many times. Here is the part of the service where you sit. Here you stand. Here you bow. Here you proclaim unwavering belief. I stared into my prayer book, hoping my face gave nothing away, but just in case, I pulled the brim of my black silk hat lower - as constricted as I felt by it, at least it provided a place to hide. I counted pages, averaged how many we were covering per minute, and calculated when we would be done - the same game I'd played as a child when time had passed unbearably slowly.” 1 likes
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