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Cover image for The marrying of Chani Kaufman
The marrying of Chani Kaufman
New York : Black Cat, [2014]

Pgw, 2014.
Physical Description:
viii, 371 pages ; 21 cm
Chani and Baruch are anxious about their arranged marriage and the mysteries of the wedding night in this glimpse into the strict faith and traditions of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community seemingly out of place in a modern world.


Call Number

On Order



Perhaps the most surprising and intriguing novel on the Man Booker Prize longlist, The Marrying of Chani Kaufman is a debut originally published by a small independent Scottish press that is already garnering significant attention worldwide.

London, 2008. Chani Kaufman is a nineteen-year-old woman, betrothed to Baruch Levy, a young man whom she has seen only four times before their wedding day. The novel begins with Chani standing "like a pillar of salt," wearing a wedding dress that has been passed between members of her family and has the yellowed underarms and rows of alteration stitches to prove it. All of the cups of cold coffee and small talk with men referred to Chani's parents have led up to this moment. But the happiness Chani and Baruch feel is more than counterbalanced by their anxiety: about the realities of married life; about whether they will be able to have fewer children than Chani's mother, who has eight daughters; and, most frighteningly, about the unknown, unspeakable secrets of the wedding night. As the book moves back to tell the story of Chani and Baruch's unusual courtship, it throws into focus a very different couple: Rabbi Chaim Zilberman and his wife, Rebbetzin Rivka Zilberman. As Chani and Baruch prepare for a shared lifetime, Chaim and Rivka struggle to keep their marriage alive--and all four, together with the rest of the community, face difficult decisions about the place of faith and family life in the contemporary world.

Author Notes

Eve Harris was born to Israeli-Polish parents in West London. She taught for twelve years at schools in London, as well as in Tel Aviv. The Marrying of Chani Kaufman was inspired by her final year of teaching at an all girls' ultra-Orthodox Jewish school in North West London.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

This impressive debut provides entry to a London kehilla, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, where the lives of a young, betrothed couple and a rabbi and rebbetzin are gracefully intertwined. In Harris's world, life is lived religiously and compliantly, ritual to ritual, Shabbat to Shabbat. Given that the traditional choice of spouse here is practiced through a matchmaker, Baruch Levy defies both his family and expectations by stubbornly choosing to court Chani Kaufman. Barely acquainted, and after only a few meetings, Chani and Baruch become engaged; they are intelligent and pious, yet completely uninformed, and anxious, about the wedding night. The marriage of Rebbetzin Rivka Zilberman, Chani's wedding tutor, and her husband Rabbi Chaim Zilberman is troubled. Tragedies, loneliness and alienation have led to the rebbetzin's confusion: "How could she fit into a community where the pain of her loss was swept under an endless tide of prayer?" Intelligent, revealing characters who command conviction and connection; the tug between the old ways and modern life; and the universal themes of desire, guilt, manipulation and submission will resonate with readers from all backgrounds. Harris's debut is as deeply melodic and exciting as her depiction of Shabbat in Jerusalem, and will linger after the last page. Agent: Diana Beaumont, Rupert Heath Literary Agency. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

Harris takes readers into the insular ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in London. It is 2008, and 19-year-old Chani Kaufman is about to marry Baruch, a young man whom she has seen only four times. As she stands uncomfortably in the wedding dress used by her mother and her older sisters, she is nervous about what the future holds, especially since her knowledge of the physical aspects of marriage is lacking. Using flashbacks to tell the story of this arranged courtship, Harris contrasts the story of Chani and Baruch with that of Rabbi Chaim Zilberman and his wife, Rebecca, who met at a university in Israel and became observant as adults. While Chani and Baruch begin life together as a couple, Chaim and Rebecca are struggling to maintain a viable marriage. The book introduces readers to a little-known way of life and asks us to consider the role of faith and family in today's world. Anyone interested in relationships will enjoy this fascinating take on the subject; in fact, Jane Austen fans will find much that is familiar in the well-developed characters and the social conventions they must navigate.--Bibel, Barbara Copyright 2014 Booklist

Library Journal Review

In London's strict Orthodox Jewish Charedi sect, girls are customarily matched up and married off at a young age. At 19, Chani Kaufman is almost on the shelf. It comes as a welcome relief for her to learn that Baruch Levi, a serious rabbinical student, would like to meet her. The news is less welcome to the parents of both young people, as it disrupts the business of matchmaking and interferes with their ideas of more suitable spouses for their children. As the two become acquainted on a series of chaste dates, their budding relationship stands in stark contrast to that of their rabbi and his wife, Rivka, whose gap year in Jerusalem had led to her involvement with a religious youth group and an increasingly devout boyfriend. Now, years later, she is conflicted about the choice she made. VERDICT The relationships in this first novel highlight the differences between those who choose an observant life and those who are born into it. This gentle romance, laced with humor and charm, also deals with the weightier questions of faith and observance. Warmly recommended.-Barbara Love, formerly with Kingston Frontenac P.L., Ont. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.