Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The World Outside by Eva Wiseman

The World Outside by Eva Wiseman is the story of a Hasidic girl in 1991 Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

Chanie 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?

I 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 definitely bittersweet.

(Reviewed from a finished copy, courtesy of the publisher.)

No comments:

Post a Comment