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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


I recently quickly referenced the teen fiction novel Gravity and will say a bit more about it here. Upfront, I guess she "can write."

It takes place in 1980s Canada* and involves an Orthodox Jewish family that express their beliefs in different ways. The mother, for instance, once thought about being a nun, but found the Orthodox path right for her. The way she felt in touch with the divine (the "gravity" metaphor arises from her) is by singing. This gets her in a bit of trouble when others think she overdoes it while reaching another plane in the midst of singing at synagogue.  The father also is Orthodox, with deep feelings, but does not express them in such emotional ways. The grandmother is largely a secular Jew though goes to Reform synagogue now and again. 

The older sister in effect follows in her footsteps and has long dreamed about escaping the confines of the family.  The main focus, Ellie, also feels trapped, dreaming of the sea.  The parents feel they have reached nirvana when they travel to Israel, a place for Jews, but Ellie feels nirvana while on vacation with her grandmother, near the water.  Ellie, who is fifteen, also has her first true love -- a girl she meets while on vacation.  The strength of this love, the physical nature that she cannot ignore, the desire to do things like touch her hair, is well expressed.  I think many romances do not truly provide such basic aspects of what love and lust and so forth is all about.  The confusion and emotional shocks are key points here.

Ellie has a crisis of faith given that Orthodox teaching has negative things to say about homosexuality and if you ignore one thing, the slipping slope to nothingness seems so easy to slide down.  But, God and religion still eventually seems right to her, just in her own way.  She also believes in her right to be happy, including breaking up with her true love when she does not seem to properly care for her and her feelings.  One review in a gay publication suggests she is transformed a bit too fast: one moment she doesn't want to wear a two piece, then she is secretly making out with her new girlfriend, for instance.  Maybe, a bit.  I think it works okay. 

Meanwhile, each member of the family makes compromises, recognizing they need to care for themselves and the people they love. The parents let the older daughter go to college away, the mom finds a new place to worship and so forth.  Also, nirvana does not occur: the book ends with only her sister knowing about her being a lesbian, for example. Thus, it is a realistic, insightful look at religion, young love, being different and being true to yourself.  Many themes, providing a rewarding read overall.


* The book was published a few years ago, so it comes off as a type of memoir in this sense, the author herself Jewish who grew up at that time with a gay brother, so some autobiographical details might be suggested.  There is no real sense of time period as such though except for the lack of things like cell phones or personal computers.