The Book of Separation:  a Memoir by Tova Mirvis 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Temple Micah.

Micah Reader in June 2019 – by Brenda Levenson

Published in 2018, Tova Mirvis’s Memoir is a well written and honest book.  The animated discussion it elicited among our group covered much territory.

Tova Mirvis grew up in a modern Orthodox home.  At the age of twenty-two she married Aaron who shared a similar background but who would increasingly observe a more rigorous form of Orthodoxy, as discord between the two set in.

In the meantime, Mirvis sends her first short story to the New York Times who accepts it immediately, launching her future as a writer.  Aaron is a lawyer, Mirvis is on the verge of a career and they have three lovely children.  Life would appear to be perfect except for the couple’s heated nightly arguments.  We learn little about Aaron with the exception of the religious issue.  Our discussion focused on the subject of Orthodox Judaism, as does much of the book.  If we are to believe Mirvis, Aaron’s increasing adherence to the most extreme form of Orthodoxy caused the marriage to deteriorate.  Among the general opinion of our group, one reader suggested that Mirvis may have used the religious issue as an excuse to tumble out of the marriage.  A boyfriend, a non-observant Jewish doctor, materializes quickly.

As Mirvis contemplates the idea of divorce, and how it will affect her children, “her ability to overcome her struggle was magnificent,” observed one of our readers who, later on in the discussion, joked that, while reading the book, she felt as if “she was working hard (as the therapist she used to be) for no pay!”  Another reader commented on how well Mirvis deals with her children after the divorce when they must divide the time spent with each parent.  But the remark of the little girl who says that she “liked it better before,” meaning when her parents were together, is sad and suggests the price children of divorced parents often pay.

As one reader observed, “the story is told from Mirvis’s perspective,” again leaving Aaron out of what happened.  Mirvis mentions the many arguments she and her husband had, but she does not indicate what the topic of their disputes was.  Were they really about religion or was it a more basic reason?  One of our readers thought that the “story could have been applicable to anyone who feels they have to escape a repressive situation.”  However, it is difficult to pinpoint what the repression was.

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