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The Ladies Auxiliary

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  4,442 Ratings  ·  854 Reviews
When free-spirited Batsheva moves into the close-knit Orthodox community of Memphis, Tennessee, the already precarious relationship between the Ladies Auxiliary and their teenage daughters is shaken to the core. In this extraordinary novel, Tova Mirvis takes us into the fascinating and insular world of the Memphis Orthodox Jews, one ripe with tradition and contradiction. W ...more
Paperback, Ballantine Reader's Circle, 336 pages
Published September 5th 2000 by Ballantine Books (first published January 1st 1999)
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Jun 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jana by: Bonnie
Shelves: re-read
The Ladies Auxiliary is essentially the Jewish version of Relief Society, complete with all the gossip, the cleaning fetishes and the casseroles. It's at once hilarious and heartbreaking. Narrated (brilliantly) in the first person PLURAL, it underscores the insider/outsider mentality. The main character is an artist from New York who moves into an Orthodox Jewish community in Memphis. It echoes in many ways my experience moving to Utah, this artist from California, and frequently feeling like an ...more
Aug 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Carie by: Jamey
I really enjoyed this book. About a convert to Orthodox Judaism who moves with her daughter to a small Orthodox community in Memphis after her husband dies. She tries to fit in.

As an LDS reader, I found it fascinating. Lots of interesting questions: How often are we like the Mrs. Levys in this novel? Are we so stuck in our customs that we forget about our religion? How can we raise our children when the world lives so differently than we do?
May 28, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Vanessa by: Rachel
Shelves: book-club-books
This novel is set in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Memphis, Tennessee. The story begins when a single mother moves into the neighborhood in hopes of starting a new life after the passing of her husband. She is a convert to Judaism, but as a fellow Orthodox Jew, she is confident that she will be welcomed to the community. Things begin to unravel from there.

This book is written in first person plural voice, which is unusual, but you get used to it very quickly. It is as if "The Ladies Auxilia
Oct 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: all lds women
Recommended to Kristine by: Brandy Sims
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
I loved this book! I would have given it 5 stars, but some of the writing was just a little awkward. The ladies, members of a tight-knit orthodox Jewish community in Memphis, were so much fun to get to know. I am a Mormon and grew up in a community where there were not many other Mormons, but now live in a majority Mormon community. I could relate to these Auxiliary ladies who have strong religious traditions and feelings, and who want to pass those on to their children. Their foibles, fears, in ...more
Dec 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I think it was because I could relate to so much of the story. Small communities are like that, hiding problems and protecting the status quo at all cost. What I love best about Oakland is that we celebrate diversity and seem to thrive on uncovering dirt to discuss.

And I loved the references to Jewish tradition. Although I was raised in a Reform congregation, my grandparents were very much a part of that Orthodoxy. And we all stuck together, supporting each other, even when it
Aug 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book left me thinking. Am I open to change? Am I open, welcoming, and friendly to someone who thinks differently than I do? Do I see the beam in my own eye (see Matthew 7:3)? How do I worship? Do I just go through the motions? Or do I connect with God? How can I be the mother my children need? How can I love them not matter what they choose even when it might break my heart?

Now six and a half years later (3/2017), I would change that last sentence to "Will I still love them no matter what t
Apr 13, 2009 rated it it was ok
I had a hard time getting into this book and never really did. The Ladies Auxiliary were just a bunch of gossiping busybodies. They drove me crazy with how judgmental they were. There group reminded me of an LDS ward were everyone knows your business. I did like how it raised the question of do we practice our religious beliefs out of tradition or because we truly want to draw closer to God.

I wish I could be at book club to discuss the book with you gals.
May 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Mirvis definitely made me feel the conflict: the white lies and gossiping, the appearance that most people didn't seem to be in the religion out of true conviction, the judging, etc. were too much at the start. What really got to me was the way I related to the backstabbing and scapegoating that can occur in a community that's supposed to be close because of their love for God. I've been in the same position as Batsheva and it's very painful.

I feel like my Mormon-ness could relate to a lot of t
May 12, 2014 rated it liked it
I would've given this book a four... I really enjoyed it all the way through until the end, which just left everything unresolved and hanging! :( If only the end had had more closure! But, I guess that makes it more like real life. I'm just not a real life kinda girl when it comes to my fiction, I like endings that resolve the issues that are going on. Small town, Memphis, with a close knit Orthodox Jewish community where everybody knows everyone else's business. A new girl moves to town and sha ...more
Sep 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
This was the pick for September for my church book club. It sounded interesting and I was excited to read it. This book is an enigma to me in many ways. Just when I think I have formed an opinion about opinion changes.

When I first started this book I had a really hard time getting into it. There are about 20 main characters and none of them are the narrator exactly. The story is told in first-person plural which took a bit to get into plus the pace of the book is very slow. For th
This is an intellectual story and not chick-lit so I really liked the themes and thought-provoking messages. It was told from the POV of the collective, a plural "we", so that the idea of the newcomer coming to town and not being part of the community was always at the forefront of the reader's mind. It was an interesting way to write the novel and made it seem as though all the women felt the same way about everything, but really underneath, they all had different viewpoints. I found the lack o ...more
Oct 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Shauna by: Carol Goodsell
Shelves: favorites
This was such a good book. Even though this deals wiht a Jewish community. It really can apply to any community that is not very tolerant of others. I am Morman, but did not grow up in a Morman household. Living in Utah is not very easy for those who are not of the Morman faith. I did not find my faith until college, so like Batsheva, I chose this and was not raised with this. There were many characters in this book who remind me of the people I now live around. I know what it is like to move in ...more
Dec 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
So far I am enjoying this book. It could easily be translated into Mormon culture. A good example of how xenophobia causes disunity and conflict in a tight knit communities.

Finished: WOW! What a powerful book. Essential reading for women in the LDS culture. Touches on the theme of examining our own lives instead of examining/criticizing the lives of other. Also about how we treat people who don't fit into the mold we have created for the typical LDS woman. Most importantly, it reminds me of the
May 14, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Robyn by: my cute Mom
I so wanted to like this book more than I did. I was expecting light-hearted sisterhood stuff, but, instead, I got so upset every time I sat down to read it. It made me so mad and even furious at times! A great example of religion taken to the realm of zealot and the ugly nature of women involved in everyone elses business but their own. A good lesson in beam and mote ideology. This isn't just a Jewish problem tho, I see it in my own religion. Especially living here in Utah. Anyway, I just wante ...more
Jun 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Rebecca, Anita, Kim
This book surprised me how it sucked me in. The characters were so complex and well-developed. I especially liked how the author dealt with prejudices within a close-knit religious community. She treats the topic with sensitivity, but a certain amount of irony and sarcasm. Reading this book helped me take a look at my own hypocrisies and prejudices, especially those that masquerade as religion. Mirvis really brings home the idea that being religious for appearance's sake can be soul-deadening an ...more
Suanne Laqueur
Sep 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-five-stars
The narrative is third-person plural: "Little changed in this city where we have always lived..." So you are hearing the story through the community viewpoint, which accentuates the insularity of the Jews in Memphis. At first I thought it a strange point of view and then I was hooked because it made me feel part of the story, part of that "we."

Beautiful story, beautiful characters... I really have no words to describe how much I loved this book.
Feb 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
It was a fascinating read. I love how it was a world I have never been in before and probably won't ever be in, but it hit so close to home. Its hard to fit in and find a place in a close knit community, especially one thats so old and hard fast in their traditions. Even though I'm not jewish I could still relate to the feelings in this book. It is well written and worth the read.
Aug 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novel, book-club
This book is an excellent book club book, especially among a religious crowd. It makes one ponder what is tradition vs. based on gospel principles. It makes you squirm in your seat as you identify yourself in one of the less desirable characters. It gives you hope as you see change can happen for everyone. I read it in a book club years ago...perhaps it's time to suggest it again.
Jun 13, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
While reading a fun story about a close-knit community of women, I learned something about Orthodox Judaism. Neat.
Nov 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who is a convert to any religion or faith, anyone who wants a glimpse into the Jewish culture
Recommended to Angela by: Cindy Rees
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Elizabeth Lawful
Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed very much. 4 1/2 stars. Well written and told from the voice of a group of Orthodox Jewish women in Memphis. A lot to disagree with, but comfortable and familiar, like an old blanket.
Aug 31, 2011 rated it liked it
Or maybe 4 stars...hard to decide. The story is set in a close-knit orthodox Jewish community in Nashville (yes, really! Orthodox Jews saying y'all). Things get shaken up when a new woman, a convert, moves in. What was a bit awkward was the way it was written in the first person plural. That helped emphasize the fact that Batsheva, the convert, was an outsider, and I imagine that's why the author chose to do it. It was "we" and "she". But sometimes I really just wanted to know who was speaking. ...more
Feb 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: great-reads
I thought this book was fantastic. Instead of being narrated by a single person, it is narrated by a group of women, The Ladies Auxiliary, in an Orthodox Jewish community in Memphis, Tennessee. The cultural aspects were interesting, but so was the dynamic within this small community. I think anyone that has grown up in a small religious community (in my case living in Mormon wards based upon geographic proximity) would easily be able to relate to the characters in this story. When an unconventio ...more
Dec 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
As much I enjoyed the personalities of this easy read, it also made me sad. Incredibly sad within a heavy view of nostalgia and yearning for the "we are all quite the same in perception" of my immigrant and 1st generation neighborhood of my childhood. The support and the conflicts, both, were considerable- but never reflected the types of dissociation, nor abandonment of individuals, nor violence so common in the same city today. All the identical issues and interactions applied for us as did wi ...more
Jun 13, 2008 rated it liked it
I have to admit that I liked this book a lot more than I expected to on first glance. I am completely guilty of judging books by their covers...and I really wasn't attracted to this cover at all. It's a little funny considering that it's the story of a community who is quick to judge a new member who is not like them.

What I really enjoyed about this book was that it was told from the perspective of the community. That alone gave this book an incredibly unique voice.

I found the ending to be a bit
The Ladies Auxiliary is, the on the surface, a story of an Orthodox Jewish community in Memphis, Tennessee. A newcomer, Batsheva, moves into the neighbourhood and she unintentionally causes the traditional group of women to question her actions, faith and purpose against their rigid rule bound society. Chaos and transformation ensues, none of which is easy on anyone. This is a deeply felt, thoughtful and universal story about the expectations of societal norms, the choices and attitudes over ind ...more
Jan 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book had elements of "Cold Sassy Tree," "The Help," and "The Chosen." I was completely fascinated with the culture presented, found the humor enjoyable, and loved the characters. It brings up great points about how neighborhoods can include/exclude, judge/embrace, hold fast to their values/allow diversity of ideas, teach/restrict, gossip about/lend a hand to their members. It made me think inwardly about how open I am to different viewpoints, how accepting I am of those different than me, a ...more
Jul 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
I felt this book was a well written and easy flowing book. The story line was engaging and plausible. I related on many levels to the story line as a stranger moves into a tight-knit Jewish community and doesn't quite fit in with the other ladies. I love how Batsheva remains true to her passionate, yet someone different expression of faith despite being scorned for her past. An insightful look at how we may perceive and treat others who are not "traditional".
May 25, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: book-club
I wanted to poke my eyes out! I really had a hard time with the book. I'm not sure I liked the flow; I can't seem to put my finger on it. It was just plain odd to read.
The cycle of the way women treat each other will never end.
It's so much easier to blame someone else then take a long hard look at yourself.
All the ladies in this book are sinners, they just seem to think that their sins aren't as bad as someone else's.
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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
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“She remembered a story she had once heard: a woman had gossiped about her neighbors and later regretted what she said. She went to the rabbi and asked how she might take back her words. He instructed her to take a feather pillow to the top of the highest hill and tear it open, letting the feathers fly every which way. Then, the rabbi said, she should return to him and he would tell her what to do. She did as he said and when she returned, he told her to go outside and gather the feathers. But that's impossible, she cried. They're already scattered all over the village. He looked at her and smiled. The same is true of your words, he said.” 20 likes
“When we were teenagers, we would imagine that when we had daughters of our own, we wouldn't be so strict. We would give them room to explore, let them decide for themselves if they wanted to follow this way of life. But once we were in the parental role, it wasn't as simple. We wanted our daughters to grow up and get married, to have Jewish homes and raise Jewish families. We wanted them to pass on this tradition to their children and to their children's children. We didn't want them to be exposed to bad influences, ones that might make them steer from this path that had been set out for them since birth. We wanted them to avoid the confusion of the modern world, where no one seemed to believe in anything anymore. We wanted them to always feel rooted in their tradition, to be close to their families, their community, and God. And we didn't know how to do that if we made no ground rules, set down no boundaries.” 2 likes
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