Disobedience and the Booker

Naomi Alderman’s Disobedience should be on this year’s Booker longlist.

The premise: a Manhattan businesswoman who fled the British Orthodox community where she grew up returns home, in the least revealing outfit she can cobble together, after her revered rabbi father dies. She arrives at the house of the cousin she’ll be staying with, only to discover that he’s married the lesbian sweetheart of her youth.

Disobedience explores the same territory as Trembling Before G-d, but is a full and powerful story rather than a series of sad documentary vignettes. I’ll save the detailed praise until another day; I’m hoping to set up an interview with the author. For now I’ll just say, in a late nod to the book meme that’s been going around, that a scene toward the end involving some candlesticks made a few tears well up.

Alderman’s debut is one of those bus-missing, hooky-playing reads I wrote about back in June. Which reminds me that I have a pile of your own recommendations sitting in my inbox. Surgery distracted me, but I’ll post them soon.

* Before you preorder the book and unfurl your hankies in anticipation, I need to point out that my and my sister’s fundie Christian issues — scroll to “Are you willing to gamble eternity in Heaven for the way you want to live now?” or the bit about Moses murdering a man — probably left me more susceptible than your average reader. For more on Disobedience, see the remarks of the Orange prize judges, Aida Edemariam’s fascinating interview, The Independent’s mixed review, and Alderman’s blog.

Image credit: Trembling Before G-d.


You might want to subscribe to my free Substack newsletter, Ancestor Trouble, if the name makes intuitive sense to you.