The World Outside by Eva Wiseman is the story of a Hasidic girl in 1991 Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
Altman loves to sing, but she knows she will never be able to perform.
In her strict Lubavich community, women are not allowed to sing in front
of men unless they are related to them. Chanie has always accepted the
strictures of her community and religion, but when she meets David, a
Jewish boy from a more progressive background, she begins to imagine
what could be possible for her. David encourages her to apply to
Julliard, and against all odds, she is granted an audition. Now Chanie
must choose: will she leave everything she knows to follow her dream?
found this book interesting, as I know very little about Chabad or
Orthodox Judaism, or about the 1991 Crown Heights Riot which figures
prominently in the book. I think this serves as a good introduction to
these topics; it certainly inspired me to do a little more reading about
them. On the other hand, I had a hard time believing in the
instantaneous attraction between Chanie and David, and the lengths to
which he went in order to see her. There were also a few spots where the
dialogue was a little stilted.
To really discuss this book, I find I need to spoil the ending, so if you are interested in reading it and wish to remain unspoiled, stop here!
In the end, Chanie decides to remain with her family and not go to
Julliard, even though she has auditioned and been accepted. This
decision is partly due to a conversation with her mother, and partly due
to other circumstances. I thought it was an interested authorial
decision to have Chanie make the choice with is unexpected for readers
of this sort of coming of age story, where the main character usually
follows her dreams despite any sacrifices she might have to make. I
would have found it a bit more believable if I'd had more of a sense
that Chanie loved her religion and community; in the book she is mostly
shown chafing at the restrictions placed upon her. The ending is
(Reviewed from a finished copy, courtesy of the publisher.)