cover image On Division

On Division

Goldie Goldbloom. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-0-374-17531-3

A secret sparks a path toward self-discovery in Goldbloom’s revelatory latest (after The Paperbark Shoe), set amid the Hasidic community in contemporary Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. At 57, Surie Eckstein is the mother of 10 children, a grandmother to 32, and is about to become a great-grandmother for the first time. Then she discovers that she is pregnant—with twins. Surie is ashamed to reveal her pregnancy, lest she be judged for maintaining a sexual relationship with her husband long past customary childbearing age; she feels she can’t even reveal her secret to her husband, Yidel, a prominent scribe. Surie fears that Yidel’s desire to maintain the family’s reputation—previously harmed by their son Lipa’s estrangement from their family and community—might cause him to shun the babies, or Surie herself. Instead of turning toward her community for support, then, Surie looks outside it, beginning to imagine a different future for herself and for some of the younger women in her life: “Instead of her usual terror, there was this new thing, a cautious curiosity about the world.” Goldbloom writes about Surie’s community fondly but also critically, examining both the kindness and the intolerance that can arise when a group separates itself from the world around it. Goldbloom’s portrait of a woman on the verge of claiming her own agency even after she thought all her life’s questions had been answered makes for fascinating, stirring reading. [em](Sept.) [/em]