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Exodus
Cover of Exodus
Exodus
A Memoir
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The author of the explosive New York Times bestselling memoir Unorthodox (now a Netflix limited series) chronicles her continuing journey as a single mother, an independent woman, and a religious refugee.

In 2009, at the age of twenty-three, Deborah Feldman walked away from the rampant oppression, abuse, and isolation of her Satmar upbringing in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to forge a better life for herself and her young son. Since leaving, Feldman has navigated remarkable experiences: raising her son in the "real" world, finding solace and solitude in a writing career, and searching for love. Culminating in an unforgettable trip across Europe to retrace her grandmother's life during the Holocaust, Exodus is a deeply moving exploration of the mysterious bonds that tie us to family and religion, the bonds we must sometimes break to find our true selves.
The author of the explosive New York Times bestselling memoir Unorthodox (now a Netflix limited series) chronicles her continuing journey as a single mother, an independent woman, and a religious refugee.

In 2009, at the age of twenty-three, Deborah Feldman walked away from the rampant oppression, abuse, and isolation of her Satmar upbringing in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to forge a better life for herself and her young son. Since leaving, Feldman has navigated remarkable experiences: raising her son in the "real" world, finding solace and solitude in a writing career, and searching for love. Culminating in an unforgettable trip across Europe to retrace her grandmother's life during the Holocaust, Exodus is a deeply moving exploration of the mysterious bonds that tie us to family and religion, the bonds we must sometimes break to find our true selves.
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  • From the book ***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof.***


    Copyright © 2014 by Deborah Feldman

    I

    ?????

    forgiveness

    There she is, just across the street, sulking on the stoop. Seven years old, skin pale almost to the point of translucence, lips pursed into a sullen pout. She stares gloomily at the silver Mary Janes on her feet, the tips of which catch the last rays of sunlight quickly fading behind the three-story brownstone.

    She has been scrubbed and primped in preparation for Passover, soon to arrive. Her hair hurts where it's been pulled too tight into a bun at the top of her head. She feels each strand stretching from its inflamed follicle, especially at the nape of her neck, where an early-spring breeze raises goose bumps on the exposed skin. Her hands are folded into the lap of her brand-new purple dress, with peonies and violets splashed wildly on the fabric, smocking at the chest, and a sash tied around the waist. There are new white tights stretched over her thin legs.

    This little side street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, usually bustling with black-clad men carrying prayer books, is momentarily silent and empty, its residents indoors making preparations for the evening. The little girl has managed to sneak away in the rush, to sit alone across from the young pear tree the neighbors planted a few years ago after carving out a square of beige dirt in the stretch of lifeless asphalt. Now it f lowers gently, bulbous white blossoms dangling precariously from its boughs.

    I cross the street toward her. No cars come. The silence is magnificent, enormous. She doesn't seem to notice me approaching, nor does she look up when I sit down next to her on the stoop. I look at her face and know instantly, with the pain of a punch to the gut, exactly how long it's been since there was a smile on it.

    I put my arm around her shoulder, ever so gently, as if she might break from the weight, and I whisper into her ear, "Everything is going to be fine."

    She turns and looks at me for the first time, her face a mask of distrust.

    "It's going to be just fine. I promise."

    Snap. The hypnotherapist wakes me by clicking her fingers together in a classic stage move.

    "You did good," she says. "Go home and try to have sex tonight. Let me know what happens. I have a feeling we've fixed the problem. Not completely, but enough for now."

    I get out of the chair, feeling dizzy and disoriented. The little girl in the purple dress recedes rapidly from my memory, even as I grasp for her in my wakeful state. What did we talk about? I can't remember. Did she tell us anything? Does the doctor know something about my past now, something that I don't?

    Never mind. The important thing is, did it really work?

    It's been a year since my husband and I crossed the threshold into our new home and our new life, only to discover that our most important purpose as a couple could not be fulfilled: procreation. Repeated attempts and numerous medical opinions have only served to confuse us further; it's as if a wall has been erected inside me. Could this be the miracle cure I've been waiting for? Will I really be able to go home tonight and finally consummate my marriage?

    ———

    I often wonder why I went back to that day, when the hypnotherapist instructed me to find some version of my childhood self to reassure. It's always the child lurking within us that rebels, that sulks, that angrily demands our attention. On that day, however, I was quiet and internal. Everyone around me was caught up in their work, and I was allowed to move about, feeling temporarily forgotten. It was not a moment...

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 24, 2014
    Feldman's (Unorthodox) second memoir examines her life after leaving the Hasidic community in which she was raised. After settling in New England with her six-year-old son, Isaac, she begins a search for personal history and identity. This personal journey is also a physical one as Feldman sets off on many excursions. She takes Isaac to Cordoba, Spain, where she is horrified to learn that are only 10 Jews left in the city. Feldman travels to Hungary where her grandmother, a holocaust survivor, was born, in the search for "something along the lines of closure." Her adventures are presented out of chronological order—a choice that makes the story confusing—and include France, Austria, Germany, and a cross-country drive. Her most intriguing explorations are often the domestic ones. While visiting a Sarah Lawrence classmate in the Southwest, for example, Feldman meets her first "authentic Republican" and takes her first bite of shrimp in front of an eager audience. In New Orleans she falls in love with Conor, a "redneck with a shotgun collection." Her most surprising love affair is with Markus, whom she first encounters online and meets in-person in Germany. Markus, descended from Nazis, admits that "is grandmother had boasted about kissing Hitler's hand." Feldman richly describes her triumph following her "escape" from a restrictive way of life. Agent: Patricia van der Leun, The Patricia van der Leun Literary Agency.

  • Kirkus

    March 1, 2014
    One woman's search to understand herself and her Jewish heritage. Raised under the strict rules of a Satmar Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn, Feldman (Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots, 2012) had no clue how tightknit that community was when she decided to leave her marriage and a man she didn't love with her young son and find a new life. "Leaving, to me felt like climbing a tremendous hill," writes the author, "one of those steep inclines that becomes almost treacherous in that the more momentum you build while racing down it, the more difficult it becomes to stop safely." She found herself an outcast from the Jewish system she'd been raised in and an outsider to the rest of the world, which often could not see beyond her apparent Jewish features. Unable to fathom life in hectic Brooklyn, Feldman pulled up stakes and moved to the countryside. Rich in details of Jewish life and the lives of her grandparents in the World War II era, the author sensitively portrays the inner struggles of accepting the pervasive feeling of survivor guilt and her own desires to understand the woman she was becoming. Feldman juxtaposes painfully emotional moments in concentration camps and in European towns where evidence of Jewish settlers was practically erased with humorous, almost macabre playacting scenarios with a German lover, scenarios that only added to Feldman's confusion over her own identity. The overall effect is captivating, entertaining and informative, providing readers with an honest assessment of the strength of one's convictions and the effect a strict religious background can have on a person. An enthralling account of how one Orthodox Jewish woman turned her back on her religion and found genuineness and validity in her new life.

    COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    March 15, 2014
    In this follow-up to her New York Timesbest-selling memoir Unorthodox (2012), Feldman positions herself as the quintessential wandering Jew. Exodus tells the story of Feldman's journey of self-discovery, which takes her from the American South to the Jewish ghettos of Old World Europe. Along the way, Feldman both meets and is alienated by Jews and Gentiles alike, falls in and out of love with a redneck (complete with motorcycle and shotgun collections), travels across continental Europe, and visits the tiny Hungarian village where her ancestors were born, always trying to find her own sense of identity separate from the strict Hasidic sect in which she was raised. Feldman's journey is undeniably and explicitly Jewish, but the aching need to find both a welcoming community and a sense of individuality is one that readers from all walks of life will be able to identify with. Those left unsatisfied with the abrupt ending to Unorthodox will enjoy the more hopeful conclusion to Feldman's second book as well as her more mature and increasingly eloquent writing style.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2014, American Library Association.)

  • Library Journal

    October 1, 2013

    As she recounted in her eye-opening memoir, Unorthodox, a New York Times best seller, Feldman was raised in a strict Satmar Hasidic community in Brooklyn but eventually abandoned her roots and a loveless marriage, attending Sarah Lawrence College and becoming a writer. Here she continues her story, explaining what it has been like to build a life as a single mother, away from everything she knew, and rethinking her Jewish identity in a way that works for her. Another celebration of independence; with a nine-city tour.

    Copyright 2013 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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A Memoir
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