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Author: Sonia Levitin
Sonia Levitinís Strange Relations is a book full of friendship, wisdom and Tsedakah (charity). It is the coming of age of a mainstream Jewish young lady, Marne Lewison from California and her very religious Lubavitch family in Hawaii, with whom she spends her summer holiday.
Marne Levison is a pretty red-head secular fifteen year whose little sister has been kidnapped five years ago.†† One way of dealing with her loss is jogging on the beach each morning.
Her mom is a busy fashion designer and her dad is the head pharmacist at Santa Monica†Hospital in California and has to work night shifts. Thatís the reason why Marne could not stay alone in California and went to Hawaii, Paradise, for her summer holiday. Her best friend Kim was also supposed to join her in Hawaii with her own family.
She is met at the Oahu airport by her aunt and some of her brood.† Chaya is married to a Rabbi and between them they have seven children aged 15 years old to19 months. Not only does Chaya have to take care of them but she also has to cook for a multitude of guests for Shabbas dinner under strict Chabad rules.
Marne becomes a good friend of Becca, the 13 year old. Jonathan, the eldest likes her but is afraid of befriending a girl because of his upbringing.† Marne loves to help out with the children, teaching them arts and crafts and entertaining them with her guitar and her camp songs.
Marne tries to integrate her carefree lifestyle, dressing in shorts and flimsy shirts, with that of her host family, who cover up about every inch of their body, even if it is hot outside. She learns to appreciate the ritual of Shabbas, the day of rest, singing, praising the Lord and simple fun.
Marne finds solace in her morning runs on the beach where she meets a gorgeous young man, Jeff. When her friend Kim arrives, she introduces him and his friends to her. They begin to hang out together, surfing and going places. At a wild week-end party Marne†sees the light through her alcohol induced haze and takes a fast run back to her auntís house.
Will she pardon Jeff for his crazy behaviour? Apparently, because she invites him for Shabbas dinner.† The shadow of Marneís sister Jodiís disappearance no longer looms over her with such gripping force. She is able to rejoin the mainstream of ordinary life. Her parents in Europe miss her a lot and come back to join her and Chayaís family in Hawaii, true Paradise.
Writing in lucid, crystalline prose Levitin has explored the relationships between secular Jewish life and the more rigid Chabad customs. The characters are real and the dialogues are true to life.† We get to witness some ďmysteriousĒ facets of the life of her Chabad family, who belong to a very strict and religious sect of Judaism.
This is a small gem of a young adult novel that showcases the authorís ability to relate between secular and orthodox Jewish life.
The above review was contributed by: Lily Azerad-Goldman: Artist: CLICK TO VIEW Lily Azerad-Goldman's Reviews.