7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
An Orthodox Jew's opinion,
This review is from: The Believers (Paperback)
I read this book because I was curious to see how Heller would portray Orthodox Judaism, as I am an Orthodox Jew, who, like Rosa, comes from a secular background. It was only this curiousity that kept me going, otherwise I think I would not have persisted.
Although some of Heller's knowledge of Judaism impressed me (the extract from the class about the red heifer), she often betrayed her ignorance. I was particularly disturbed by the mikva attendant chuckling about what she finds amongst women's pubic hair - where did Heller get the idea that this is what a mikvah attendant does? I have been married for 8 years and observed the laws of mikvah faithfully, and this is just not true! Although most of Heller's audience would not be able to pinpoint the mistakes she makes in her knowledge of Judaism, I think her strident confidence in her ability to put words into the mouths of Orthodox Jews is misplaced. I also found that these characters were preachy and lacked humanity, again reflecting Heller's superficial knowledge of Orthodox Jews. However, I think that Rosa's struggle was portrayed convincingly, although I found it very depressing at times. Ican imagine that the untraslated Hebrew words would be irritating for those who have no knowledge of the language.
With regards to the rest of the novel - I found Audrey entirely unlikeable and repellent, completely lacking charm. I felt quite sympathetic towards Karla, but her story read to me like a chick-lit plot. Lenny and Joel's characters did not interest me at all. I, like many of the other reader reviewers, did not find this book funny, nor did I find anything remarkable in Heller's style.
So it was Rosa's story that propelled me through the book, but even then, it was a struggle.