Unortho­dox Love

  • Review
By – July 17, 2023

Pen­i­na is twen­ty-nine and still unmar­ried, which is prac­ti­cal­ly unheard of in her deeply reli­gious Ortho­dox Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty. She longs for love, mar­riage, and chil­dren, but she’s been told since she was young that she can’t have chil­dren due to a med­ical issue. Love and mar­riage seem to be slip­ping fur­ther and fur­ther away. While a match­mak­er has set her up with pret­ty much every eli­gi­ble (and bare­ly eli­gi­ble) Ortho­dox bach­e­lor in the com­mu­ni­ty, Pen­i­na has all but resigned her­self to solitude.

How­ev­er solo she may appear, Pen­i­na does have a rich life filled with love and fam­i­ly. This includes her old­er sis­ter Lib­by, who has fol­lowed the tra­di­tion­al” Ortho­dox life for women: mar­ry, have a bunch of chil­dren, and raise them with­in the com­mu­ni­ty. But Lib­by is also fac­ing finan­cial trou­bles. She could poten­tial­ly lose her house due to her husband’s some­what shady busi­ness deal­ings. Pen­i­na adores her younger sis­ter Fray­die, who prefers to dress like a goth, heavy on black and even heav­ier on mis­chief. Her moth­er and father want her to find some­one that can make her hap­py, but they’re increas­ing­ly wor­ried as she ages with­out any real prospects. Pen­i­na takes on everyone’s con­cerns and makes them her own. 

When her new boss, the exceed­ing­ly hand­some, dev­as­tat­ing­ly rich, and Jew­ish (but not Ortho­dox) Sam Kle­in­feld, begins run­ning the jew­el­ry store where Pen­i­na works, she feels some­thing she’s nev­er felt on her many bad dates. As she spends more time with Sam, Pen­i­na is ambushed by a sur­prise pro­pos­al — from Zevi, a gay Ortho­dox Jew­ish man who is des­per­ate to win his dying mother’s approval. It’s not quite the romance Pen­i­na was hop­ing for, and cer­tain­ly no match for the feel­ings she’s been devel­op­ing for Sam. That pro­pos­al, how­ev­er, comes with a hefty reward: Zevi is will­ing to pay Pen­i­na for this mar­riage ruse, enough for her to save her house and pro­vide for her fam­i­ly. Will Pen­i­na ever get to mar­ry? And if she does, will she get to mar­ry for love, or will she be tempt­ed to solve her family’s prob­lems and tie the knot for money? 

Unortho­dox Love is a sweet and unapolo­get­i­cal­ly Jew­ish romance that cen­ters one woman’s desire to mar­ry and raise a fam­i­ly with­in the Ortho­dox com­mu­ni­ty. With beau­ti­ful descrip­tions of hol­i­days, rit­u­als, and fam­i­ly gath­er­ings, Unortho­dox Love gives a mod­ern glimpse into cen­turies-old tra­di­tions. It is a per­fect nov­el for any­one look­ing for a relat­able romance with a hap­pi­ly ever after.

Jes­si­ca Sender is an aca­d­e­m­ic librar­i­an at Michi­gan State Uni­ver­si­ty. She has worked in pub­lic and aca­d­e­m­ic libraries, and in her free time enjoys run­ning, bik­ing, real­i­ty TV, and explor­ing Michigan. 

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