The House of Love and Prayer: and Other Stories by Tova Reich
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In this extraordinary collection of short fiction, Tova Reich dives deep into the world of Orthodox Jewry—a world that her stories, like the shows “Unorthodox” and “Shtisel,” embrace with respect and affection while also poking at the faultlines in its unshakeable traditions.
The eight stories collected in this volume are all populated by seekers—of holiness, illumination, liberation, meaning, love. Their journeys unfold in the U.S., Israel, Poland, China, often in the very heart of the Jewish world, and are rendered with an insider’s authority. The narrative voice bringing all this to life has been described as fearlessly satiric and subversive, with a moral but not moralizing edge, equally alive to the sacred and the profane, comically absurd to the point of tragedy.
From the opening story, “The Lost Girl” (winner of a National Magazine Award in Fiction) to “Dead Zone” in the closing pages of this collection, we are confronted with souls unable to rest, unable to find release, searching for their place in this life, and beyond. Between these two stories, we encounter a true believer seeking personal redemption in China (“Forbidden City”), and an aged woman longing at the end of her life to find a way back to her mother (“The Plot”). Three of the stories, “The Page Turner,” “The Third Generation,” and “Dedicated to the Dead,” are animated by the long-term fallout from the Holocaust—generational trauma, abuse of memory, competitive victimization, and more. In the midst of all this is the story “The House of Love and Prayer,” which, in its way, encompasses the entire spectrum.
Year first published: 2023