The Sacrifice of Tamar

Naomi Ragen, Author Crown Publishing Group (NY) $24 (0p) ISBN 978-0-517-59561-9
Returning to familiar terrain in her third novel (after Jephte's Daughter and Sotah), Ragen again examines the lives of ultra-orthodox Jews and the severe consequences that can befall even the most faithful when they take a serious, albeit human misstep. Most of the story takes place in a Brooklyn neighborhood resembling Borough Park, although, as in her previous books, dramatic fanfare occurs in Israel, too. Pious Tamar both adores and is in awe of her warm and brilliant husband, Josh. She is looking forward to an intimate evening after her ritual visit to the mikvah (here Ragen offers a tediously detailed description about Jewish conjugal laws), but that evening she is raped by a black man. She does not tell her husband about the attack, and when she discovers she is pregnant, she does not abort the fetus, because she is not sure whether the rapist or Josh is the father. In trying to make the reader understand why Tamar would choose silence and sustain the pregnancy, Ragen flashes back to Tamar's youth, particularly her relationship with two friends who play pivotal roles throughout her life: Hadassah, the beautiful, rebellious daughter of the neighborhood's primary religious leader, and Jenny, who comes from a secular background but easily adapts to Orthodox observance. The interplay between the girls as they take tentative steps into the secular world of the late 1960s provides some charming scenes, and the final chapters prove moving and dramatic when later consequences of Tamar's deceptive silence shatter her family's life. While Ragen is an able storyteller and handles dialogue deftly, her plots are becoming hackneyed. It's an insular and provincial world that she has chosen to portray, and here she adds little that is new or eye-opening to the reader. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/03/1994
Release date: 10/01/1994
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 480 pages - 978-1-4299-1084-2
Paperback - 445 pages - 978-1-902881-52-2
Hardcover - 236 pages - 978-1-902881-74-4
Mass Market Paperbound - 978-0-06-100948-8
Paperback - 458 pages - 978-0-312-57022-4
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