Shertok, Heidi. Unorthodox Love. Alcove Press, 2023. ISBN 9781639103768. $17.99
Our heroine Penina comes from a community of modern Orthodox Jews, where marriage at a young age and having lots of children is highly prized. As an infertile woman, finding a marriage match has not come easily to her, and a traditional shadchan is heroically making a last ditch effort into finding a mate for Penina. Meanwhile, she spends her days volunteering in a local hospital’s NICU, working her jewelry shop job, maintaining her social media presence as a frum fashionista, and going on hotel lobby dates with unsuitable men. When her boss goes out on medical leave and his attractive (secular) son takes over the jewelry store, sparks fly, but handsome Sam annoys the heck out of her,and somehow, their bodies keep colliding in ways that are against the strict rules around unmarried, unrelated male and female proximity. Penina’s sister is in danger of losing her home due to her husband;s failed businesses, and Penina becomes determined not just to marry, but to marry wealthy; when Sam learns she’s become engaged and will settle for a marriage in name only, he has some opinions.
This is a wonderfully authentic portrayal of navigating a complex culture. So many details ring true, from festival observances to the love and obligations of family politics to the Israeli-accented English of Penina’s sister. Shertok tells Penina’s story with a lot of humor and honesty and never devolves to deprecation. The writing is descriptive (the clothing descriptions are amazing!) and evocative, and characters and situations relatable whatever your religious or cultural affiliations.
I received an advance reader’s copy of #UnorthodoxLove from #NetGalley.