The novel focuses on the relationship between Annie Johnson, a feminist writer and teacher, and her daughter, Andrea, who as the story begins has just decided to live as part of an Orthodox religious community in Israel. Annie is accustomed to getting desperate letters and phone calls from Andrea, and for years has helped her (although not altogether approvingly) through a continuing series of troubles (abortions, a suicide attempt) and phases (punk hairdos, tattoos). She is unprepared, though, to find that Andrea now is thoroughly immersed in a culture that demands humble obedience to God and the rabbis, diligent spiritual study, and almost complete self-denial, to the extent that even a marriage is arranged for her so that she can serve God by bearing children.
Annie especially resents her daughter’s new life-style because it not only excludes her but also directly repudiates the feminist values on which she has centered her life. Even as she plots one more time to interfere and drag Andrea back to the modern world, however, Annie begins to analyze her own motives and beliefs and gains a new perspective on exactly what life in the modern world entails. Instead of joining with the parents of the intended husband of the arranged marriage to kidnap the couple from what seems like a strange cult, Annie finds her visit to Israel culminating in a deeper knowledge of and respect for her daughter’s needs and desires, which are so unlike her own.
(The entire section is 408 words.)