THE SISTERS WEISS by Naomi Ragen
Rose and Pearl grow up in an ultra-orthodox home in New York with a Rabbi father and ultra-observant mother. Theirs is a loving but strict family, requiring absolute obedience from the girls and their older siblings. When sheltered and naive Rose (the older of the two) becomes friendly with a new girl whose family is newly observant and extremely permissive, she sees a world beyond her closed society. Sent away from home into an even more strict and confining school, Rose rebels and commits a sin her family considers unforgivable. Pearl, who adores her older sister, is left behind to deal with a fractured family and her own perceived guilt. The remainder of the novel covers the career and family of Rose and the eventual re-involvement of Pearl’s conservative religious beliefs in her life.
I found the first three fourths of this novel very informative concerning the ultra-orthodox life style. The characters were fully developed and consistent. The writing was clear and presented the various viewpoints with insight and sympathy. The situations were transparently presented and led to the final plot conflict. Unfortunately the final section of the novel seemed hurried, the characters lost their consistency of thought and action, and the ending was contrived and disappointing.
There is much here that book groups will find worthy of discussion, despite the novel’s limitation. The family situation, the effect of religious faith on family life, sibling relationships, guilt, forgiveness, redemption, choice of career, women’s choice’s, family dynamics, unplanned pregnancies, and education are all worthy topics.
3 of 5 stars