The Ladies Auxiliary by Tova Mirvis

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In her debut novel, The Ladies Auxiliary (1999), author Tova Mirvis introduces readers to recently widowed New Yorker Batsheva Jacobs, who settles into a close-knit, orthodox Jewish community in Memphis, Tennessee, where she plans to raise her daughter, Ayala. Batsheva is a fairly recent convert to Judaism, and the local women are shocked by her unconventional practices and the way in which she pushes the limits of orthodoxy. Batsheva clearly loves her religion and finds tremendous joy in her celebration of holidays and in the weekly observance of the Sabbath, but her free-spirited nature makes many of the town's strict religious adherents increasingly uncomfortable. The other women in the community consider themselves the tireless guardians of their tradition, and though Batsheva's peers are vehemently opposed to anything progressive or modern that might interfere with their conventional views, they are curious about Batsheva's fervent and spirited take on orthodox Judaism.

Batsheva finds a job as a high school art teacher and soon becomes students' favorite faculty member. They confide in her, and in return, she encourages the students to be themselves. However, she soon becomes the target of...

(The entire section is 372 words.)