Against the backdrop of Jerusalem

An anthology of short stories mix together and show an appreciation for the quirky sides of life.

By RENA BANNETT
April 10, 2014 15:58
wedding

Rabbinical student Yossi Feldman tastes a ceremonial glass of wine during his wedding to Mussie Oberlander, daughter of Hungary’s leading Orthodox rabbi, in Budapest last month.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Yael Unterman’s first book, Nehama Leibowitz: Teacher and Bible Scholar, a National Jewish Book Awards finalist, was a scholarly work. In her new book The Hidden of Things, Unterman strikes out in a new direction, moving into fiction, though the backdrop for many of her stories is still Jerusalem and Torah learning. She uses her considerable skills as an author and an actor to shine a spotlight on a group of characters who might seem familiar to many of us living in Jewish communities: mostly young, intelligent, educated, Jewishly observant single women and men.

The book, though written as short stories, is meant to be read in order, for the characters and their lives intermingle as they progress and grow. Yael enlivens these characters with rich and provocative dialogue, both thought and spoken, leading us to recognize them as people we have been or, at least, have known, and to resonate to the situations in which they find themselves. She writes with a deep appreciation for the quirky, humorous and absurd sides of life, while at the same time vividly bringing the pathos and wrenching loneliness that are part and parcel of the human condition, as she points out many of the specific difficulties encountered in living without a partner. For example, when Karin, a 30-year-old British woman doing a doctorate in Jerusalem, is dumped by beloved boyfriend Bo, he says to her: “…there’s some lonely thing in you, way beyond where I can reach”: and she immediately thinks to herself: “Super.

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