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The memoir of a woman who leaves her faith and her marriage and sets out to navigate the terrifying, liberating terrain of a newly mapless world

Born and raised in a tight-knit Orthodox Jewish family, Tova Mirvis committed herself to observing the rules and rituals prescribed by this way of life. After all, to observe was to be accepted and to be accepted was to be loved. She married a man from within the fold and quickly began a family. But over the years, her doubts became noisier than her faith, and at age forty she could no longer breathe in what had become a suffocating existence. Even though it would mean the loss of her friends, her community, and possibly even her family, Tova decides to leave her husband and her faith. After years of trying to silence the voice inside her that said she did not agree, did not fit in, did not believe, she strikes out on her own to discover what she does believe and who she really is. This will mean forging a new way of life not just for herself, but for her children, who are struggling with what the divorce and her new status as "not Orthodox" mean for them. This is a memoir about what it means to decide to heed your inner compass at long last. To free the part of yourself that has been suppressed, even if it means walking away from the only life you've ever known. Honest and courageous, Tova takes us through her first year outside her marriage and community as she learns to silence her fears and seek adventure on her own path to happiness.

About the Author

Tova Mirvis

I grew up in the small Orthodox Jewish community in Memphis, Tennessee, where I felt both what was grounding about being part of a such an enclosed world as well as what was stifling. This became the subject of m first novel, The Ladies Auxiliary, which I started writing when I no longer living in Memphis. Being away from home enabled me to look back and it and explore my own ambivalence about belonging. My second novel, The Outside World, is also set in an Orthodox Jewish world, and is about two families whose children marry each other. In that book I wanted to write about the conflict between tradition and modernity, and also about marriage and dreams and belief and doubt. My third novel Visible City began when I moved from New York City to a Boston suburb. I was so homesick for a city I had come to live, and longed for the anonymous intimacy that comes from living among so many strangers. Visible City is about a woman who watches her neighbors from her windows and becomes entangled in their lives. It's a book about watching people we don't know but about the difficulty of seeing people we do know as well. It's also about a lost stained glass window and about motherhood and the loneliness of marriage. And now, after these three novels, I've written a memoir called The Book of Separation. It originated with an essay I wrote in the New York Times about leaving my marriage and my Orthodox Jewish faith. After the piece came out I was flooded with emails from people telling me their own stories of loss and change and it inspired me to write this book. The Book of Separation is about wrestling with doubt, about trying to be the person I was expected to be and about decided to change, when change felt as terrifying as anything I could do. I wrote about my experience of leaving a world where so much was scripted for me and trying to forge a new way of life that felt more genuine to me.

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