Majority of the book I read fall into one of three categories: sci-fi, Jewish/Judaism related books or Hungarian novels. I am always thrilled when I learn about books that combine my favorite genres. (I am still looking or one that combines all three.) I picked up Andrew Jonathan Fine‘s Alouette’s Song * because it promised to be a Jewish romance AND being a sci-fi. It delivered on its promise in satisfying enough ways.
What I ended up liking the most about the book was neither of these aspects but its realistic description of “multicultural society.” If you find a better expression of how people of different aptitudes, interests, intelligences and yes backgrounds can end up forming a close team to save the world, nothing less let me know. That’s what I found the most exciting and the most novel to me was the experiences of Marge, who is on the autism spectrum. I feel I gained a bit of familiarity if not insight of how it may feel to be on the spectrum.
Two of the major characters are Jewish to various degree. Dorothy is a real Texan girl with all of its strength and peculiarities AND she is an observant Jew: another great example of how people cannot be defined a by a single category, which is part of the multicultural aspect I enjoyed so much in this book. This is what she says at one point about her besheret, Richard:
“I really think the absolute worst thing his parents ever did to him was to teach our commandments as duties to be obeyed and burdens to be shouldered. They were actually more like an interlinking system of principles which if observed sufficiently closely practically guaranteed a joyful and fulfilling life. Take for instance the Bar-Mitzvah. There’s a huge misconception that a boy becomes a man only by undergoing the ceremony. It’s actually supposed to be a celebration that a boy reaches the age of responsibility. The celebration is not actually necessary for the boy to become responsible, he already is. “
I read some novels where Jewish themes were interwoven so badly that they felt like windowdressing to make the book more diverse. Not here: it shows that the author is familiar with/of the tradition, because not just the words, but the actions and patterns of thinking of Dorothy reflects a deep Jewish identity. E.g. the above paragraph takes some maturity and immersion to Judaism to come up with and accept.
I recommend this book because it teaches about people and diversity, is fun to read and has the right proportions of science fiction, romance, and drama. It is not a perfect book though I had “almost” three issues with it. First, the book needs an editor. Not just because of the 4-5 typos that I noticed, but also the dialogues can be too long and pedantic. Second, as the main characters are all teenagers I suspect that it is intended to be read by teenagers. Having rather explicit sex scenes may offend some teens or their parents. The “almost” third issue is about the cover. I saw four different covers for the book, including its first (see above), second and Kindle edition. Three of them seemed childish and not professional enough. But the third one, invoking Chagall, is great, see right.
* This review is part the #Readukkah challenge.