American Stranger by David Plante
Brought up in a secularized Jewish household on Manhattan’s upper Eastside, Nancy Green knows suspiciously little about her parents’ past. She knows they were World War II Jewish refugees who were able to escape Germany with precious family heirlooms that are constant reminders of a lost life and world Nancy knows very little about. The longing she has for some kind of spiritual connection first leads her into an encounter with an Hassidic Jewish man who, unable to find meaning in his own religion, has taken vows to becomes a monk; and then an involvement with a Catholic boy in Boston where she is studying for her masters degree in English literature. Yvon, trying to escape the clutches of Catholicism and his overbearing mother, finds temporary refuge in Nancy and sees her as an escape from the insular enclave of Franco-Americans where he has spent most of his life. Their highly erotic, tempestuous relationship is frightening to both of them and a tragedy in Yvon’s life eventually pulls them apart. Devastated by the breakup, Nancy ends up marrying a Jewish man from London, hoping to find herself with a man of her own religion. However, this new relationship, pale in comparison to her relationship with Yvon, ends very sadly and regrettably, inspiring Nancy to go back to Boston to track down the man who, she realizes, is the great love of her life.