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The Outside World


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About the Author

Tova Mirvis grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. She received an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University. She lives outside of Boston with her husband and two children. She can be found online at


With a sharp and sympathetic eye for the oft neglected and misunderstood worlds of ultra-Orthodox and Modern Orthodox Judaism, Mirvis (The Ladies Auxiliary) crafts a compelling narrative that delves into the lives of two families, each struggling with its own insecurities and difficulties. In this second novel, 22-year-old Orthodox Tzippy, born and bred in Jewish Brooklyn and insulated from secular society but secretly curious and eager to experience it, is barraged with meddlesome questions and with a slew of seemingly endless carbon-copy dates intended to facilitate her marriage to a reputable yeshiva boy before she turns into a spinster. Meanwhile, not too far away, Naomi and Joel, Modern Orthodox Jews, are straining to knock some sense into their suddenly ultra-religious son, Bryan (now calling himself by his Hebrew name Baruch), who has morphed from a head-banging, jeans-wearing, girl-chasing jock into a soul-searching, Talmud-studying, black-hat Jew interested only in immersing himself in God's laws and the Torah. When these two formerly separate worlds collide, parents, siblings and spouses must reflect on what their faith means to them and what to do when their beliefs unexpectedly diverge from those of loved ones. At times giddily humorous, at times stirring and sorrowful, Mirvis's insightful novel is packed with convincing detail, from descriptions of yarmulkes (fancifully embroidered or stolid black velvet) to the varieties of wigs worn by married ultra-Orthodox women. The characters' frequent use of distinctively Jewish terms and ideas gives the novel a foreign air, but the universal themes of growing up and choosing a fitting life to lead will resonate with readers of all faiths. Agent, Nicole Aragi. 7-city author tour. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Fundamentalists from many religions struggle with whether to accommodate the modern world or live in conflict with it. The way this struggle affects two Orthodox Jewish families is examined with both humor and poignancy in Mirvis's second novel (after The Ladies Auxiliary). The two families are brought together-and torn apart-by the marriage of their children, who bridge the traditional and the modern. After meeting and falling in love in Israel, Tzippy (Tzipporah) and Brian (Baruch)-whose American and Jewish names are markers for their cultural conflict-return to New Jersey and marry. As both newlyweds are very young, they have had few years to plan for their futures; until now, Brian has thought only of Torah study and Tzippy only of marriage. But all of that changes as the outside world encroaches and the couple discovers that building a future together demands maturity and change. A touching rendering for those who want to explore their own or another culture more deeply, this is recommended for most collections.-Judith Kicinski, Sarah Lawrence Coll. Lib., Bronxville, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Adult/High School-Tzippy Goldman, 22, has sat through too many first dates in Brooklyn hotel lobbies. Her mother has been planning her wedding since she was little, and still she's not married. Hungry for life experience, she wants to go to Israel. At the same time, Bryan Miller is searching for more meaning than his Orthodox Jewish lifestyle and family provide. He changes his name to Baruch and decides to give up plans to attend Columbia University in order to study the Talmud at yeshiva in Jerusalem. The move leads him to become ultra-Orthodox, and to Tzippy. They find that though they love one another deeply, they must constantly seek a balance between tradition, faith, and the outside world. This novel is absorbing and memorable in its presentation of the rhythms of everyday life, the joy of doing, and the need to find one's place in the community. Weddings, Sabbaths, and seders are richly detailed, and the characters, especially the couple and their mothers, are finely drawn. Mirvis writes with compassion and humor about the intersection of life and faith. Readers get a strong sense of this unique world, but the themes are universal.-Susanne Bardelson, Kitsap Regional Library, WA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

"Brilliant. . . . Mirvis finds reservoirs of belief, doubt, ambition, folly, lust and the rest of the human equation." --The Washington Post Book World"Melancholy and subtly humorous. . . . Under Mirvis' knowing and sympathetic eye, this insular sect reveals itself to be not such a small world after all." --Entertainment Weekly"Expertly crafted. . . . Mirvis explores the bubbling tensions between the different worlds her characters straddle: modernity and tradition, the spiritual and the physical, fantasy and reality, religion and secularism, individual freedom and social mores." -The Chicago Tribune"Mirvis has a pastry chef's control of her material, a sureness about not overhandling the dough. She leavens utterly serious explorations of faith with chuckle-out-loud humor, yet doesn't slip into irreverence, let alone disrespect. . . . You don't have to be Jewish to love her." --Seattle Times"Mirvis tells the story...with gentle humor and loving attention to Jewish life. She has a talent for seeing everybody's side and making incompatible attitudes seem equally reasonable." -Newsday"Compelling and heartfelt...will satisfy readers curious for a true-to-life peek into the semisecret society of Orthodox Judaism." --San Francisco Chronicle"Her chatty style and her eye for cultural contradictions are always engaging." --The New Yorker"It is a sin against human intelligence to use the tired phrase 'My Big Fat Fill-in-the-Blank Wedding' anymore, but it's tempting to haul it out one more time for this warm novel about two Orthodox Jewish families who wrestle with faith, community and each other...Engaging." --The Miami Herald"Makes gefilte fish of any stereotypes readers may have about Orthodox Jews....Joyously sweet-natured...and also pointedly insightful about just how complicated it is to lead a religious life." --Kirkus Reviews"Rife with laugh out loud lines... charming and funny. A rich, fascinating glimpse into contemporary Orthodoxy." -The Forward"The last generation...has seen a wholly unexpected revival within American Judaism...The novels of Allegra Goodman, Aryeh Lev Stollman and Dara Horn, among others, have explored this landscape. But none has done so with greater perception and empathy than Tova Mirvis in her breakthrough book, The Outside World." --Samuel Freedman, The Washington Post Book World"You don't have to be Jewish to appreciate a Tova Mirvis book.... She recreates a world of rule breakers, believers, doubters, and deceivers....A sometimes hilarious tale of isolation, faith, and destiny." --The Jerusalem Post"Witty and wise, Mirvis's novel explores the expectations of sacred scripture and the yearning for freedom within the parameters of belief." -Booklist (starred review)"In The Outside World, Tova Mirvis creates a Milky Way of believers searching for God and a life of meaning. ...Mirvis is a wonderful storyteller and The Outside World is a charming novel with affecting characters." -The Courier-Post (NJ)"At times giddily humorous, at times stirring and sorrowful, Mirvis's insightful novel is packed with convincing detail...The universal themes of growing up and choosing a fitting life to lead will resonate with readers of all faiths." --Publishers Weekly"A moving and gently humorous story about the varieties of insularity, faith, acceptance and reconciliation." -The Memphis Commercial Appeal"With both humor and poignancy...a touching rendering for those who want to explore their own or another culture more deeply." --Library Journal"Mirvis writes with gentle humor...She also captures the challenge of leading a religious life: the obligations, the meaning of faith, the balance between community and self, the occasional doubts." -The Jewish Week"The Outside World starts off as a romantic comedy but grows into something more complicated, more poignant and more interesting...Mirvis juggles the many points of view on Orthodox life without singling out one as superior." --The Columbus Dispatch"Hilariously brilliant... personal and profound... Mirvis has tackled insider worlds before in her previous bestseller, The Ladies Auxiliary, and here she shines as well, creating a whole warm, indelible world and bringing it all to life with insider details." -

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