Jewish Values: One Is Not a Lonely Number

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449 p.
One school year in the life of 13 year old Talia is explored in this long novel for preteen girls. The only child of affluent, high-achieving and observant parents, Talia’s life has many privileges but like most adolescents, she still has her share of complaints. She’s an “only” in a community where large families are the rule. Her parents’ practice of hachnasat orchim (welcoming guests) means that their Shabbats are always crowded with strangers. The story seems intended to show the everyday-ness along with the wholesomeness of American Orthodox Jewish life. Although their lives are lived within a totally Orthodox environment, Talia and her friends are typical enough of their age group that non-Orthodox readers will identify with them. Moreover, there is very little Hebrew used and discussions of religious belief and practice are kept to a minimum so few challenges are presented to readers unfamiliar with Orthodox Judaism. The girls in this story may daven, belong to Shabbat clubs, and bless their food before eating, but they also like shopping, pizza, gossip, and fun. Talia herself is a math whiz whose intellectual achievements provide a balance to some of her more girly concerns. A positive tone pervades the story, whose natural dialog and ease of reading may offset the disadvantage of its length.
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