She heard the men singing. Their shouts of ‘lai-lai-lai!’ rolled down the dusty synagogue corridor. They were coming for her. This was it. This was her day. The day her real life started. She was nineteen and had never held a boy’s hand. The only man to touch her had been her father and his physical affection had dwindled since her body had curved and ripened.
Chani Kaufmann, brought up in a large impoverished Jewish family in North West London’s large orthodox community, has become engaged to gauche and bookish Baruch, despite the not-so-subtle sabotage attempts by his socially-ambitious mother. She is nervous and exhilarated by the idea that marriage would actually lift the “bell jar’’ under which she lives her life, or at least, having someone to share it with.
Eve Harris’s debut novel, The Marrying of Chani Kaufmann , is essentially two stories running in parallel, occasionally merging before going their separate ways again. For Chani is not the only one struggling to understand and conform to the strict religious and social mores of orthodox Jewish life. The Rebbetzin, Rabbi Lieberman’s wife, has been instructing her in the rites and obligations of marriage, but the process revives painful memories of her own romance and introduction into the Jewish life in Jerusalem and gradually makes her question everything about the daily rhythms of life that have directed her for years. For her the “drug of spiritual bliss’’ had worn off.