“I was controlled and overpowered as a child, and here was my opportunity to relive the experience with a different ending.” Deborah Feldman’s follow-up to her memoir, Unorthodox, details her life after leaving behind her Satmar roots. Feldman works hard to figure out where she fits in the world. She moves with her son to the countryside to heal, escape from the busy city, and live guided by her own decisions. She is in a constant struggle of self. Her stories are scattered throughout the book, the years not so clear, the chapters separated by themes, like boxes in which she places different parts of her being. She depicts the relationships she has after her divorce, most of which are with non-Jewish men who are the opposites of what she grew up with. A man named Conor in New Orleans proves to be her first true love, but the spell is soon broken and she feels almost comforted by the idea that she needs to be alone and that no one could ever make her truly happy. She continues to reject men before they can hurt or leave her. After all, her childhood has caused her to be negative; “a disease that lived in her brain, programming it to expect the worst, filling it with images of grief and disaster.” In later parts of the book, Feldman travels to Europe to educate herself about her grandparents’ experiences during the Holocaust, an attempt to place herself in their shoes. In Unorthodox, she depicted them as cold and unloving, yet in Exodus she glorifies them, realizing what they had to endure before they settled in Brooklyn and accepted the Satmar life. While she was constantly trying to escape Judaism in America, she finds it to be the thing that defines her on this journey. The people she meets — a German lover, an ostracized painter, a daughter of a Nazi — make her reflect on what it was that she left behind and how difficult forgetting it is going to be, and that maybe forgetting isn’t the best idea after all.
Exodus: A Memoir
Related Content: Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman
Justin Petrillo hails from Chevy Chase, MD. The city is not named for the actor, so stop asking. He resides in Brooklyn and spends time playing tennis, reading books by Jewish and non-Jewish authors, and screaming at the Washington Redskins through the television. He is a graduate of Emory University.
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