Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Review: Jujitsu Rabbi and the Goddless Blonde

Summary: The ultimate fish-out-of-water tale . . . 

A child who never quite fit in, Rebecca Dana worshipped at the altar of Truman Capote and Nora Ephron, dreaming of one day ditching Pittsburgh and moving to New York, her Jerusalem. After graduating from college, she made her way to the city to begin her destiny. For a time, life turned out exactly as she’d planned: glamorous parties; beautiful people; the perfect job, apartment, and man. But when it all came crashing down, she found herself catapulted into another world. She moves into Brooklyn’s enormous Lubavitch community, and lives with Cosmo, a thirty-year-old Russian rabbi who practices jujitsu on the side.

While Cosmo, disenchanted with Orthodoxy, flirts with leaving the community, Rebecca faces the fact that her religion—the books, magazines, TV shows, and movies that made New York seem like salvation—has also failed her. As she shuttles between the world of religious extremism and the world of secular excess, Rebecca goes on a search for meaning. 
Trenchantly observant, entertaining as hell, a mix of Shalom Auslander and The Odd Couple, Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde is a thought-provoking coming-of-age story for the twenty-first century. -- Amy Einhorn

I am almost one percent positive that I wouldn't have given JUJITSU RABBI AND THE GODLESS BLONDE by Rebecca Dana a second look if it weren't an Amy Einhorn book. I have come to expect great things from this imprint and I don't think I've ever been disappointed. Plus, the review from Entertainment Weekly (my go-to book source) review didn't hurt either.

JUJITSU RABBI AND THE GODLESS BLONDE is definitely different from the other Einhorn books that I've read, namely because it's a memoir. This book is Rebecca Dana's story about the time she spent living in Brooklyn's Lubavitch community with a 30 year old Russian Rabbi named "Cosmo." From the title, you can probably tell that he also practiced jujitsu!

Ms. Dana grew up as a sort of outcast in Pittsburgh; however, she always dreamed about moving to New York and living the glamorous life. She seemingly had it all -- a nice apartment, a great job as a journalist where she got to cover the hottest parties and celebrities, and even a boyfriend; however, things took a drastic change when she and her boyfriend broke up.

Ms. Dana was seriously depressed and she wasn't sure that living her dreamlife is all she thought it would be. She  found herself moving into a new apartment in Brooklyn's Lubavitch community with Cosmo, a Russian rabbi who was also at a turning point in his life. In a way, you could say that both individuals were disenchanted with their "religions." Cosmo was considering leaving his Orthodox faith while Ms. Dana was disillusioned with her worship of celebrities, money, gossip, and parties.

Through this unlikely friendship, Ms. Dana began to truly look at herself and work towards discovering what would really make her happy!

Overall, I enjoyed JUJITSU RABBI AND THE GODLESS BLONDE. I don't know that I loved it, but I did like many things about this book. And I can definitely say that after I closed the last page of the book, I had a smile on my face. I was very much entertained by Ms. Dana's story, and there is no doubt that I found parts of it to be very funny. I think what surprised me, especially after the prologue, is how insightful and touching her story was.

One thing that I appreciated about this book was Ms. Dana's presentation style and writing. The prologue was a little different (or maybe I should just say unexpected from a memoir), but I admit that I loved how it started. I got an immediate sense of Ms. Dana's writing style and her humor, and I thought I might be in for a treat -- and I was. As the book continued, the presentation definitely became more like a traditional memoir; however, I very much appreciated Ms. Dana's storytelling abilities.

However, it was the underlying messages in Ms. Dana's story that really made this book stand out to me. I loved how insightful the author was when it came to her childhood and eventually her adulthood. I also liked how there were so many delightful tidbits of wisdom thrown in -- especially from Cosmo. While I wasn't initially sure I could relate to Ms. Dana (and I'm still pretty sure we have very little in common), I found myself "getting" her. And then as she began to mature and realize what's important to her, I started to really care about the life lessons she was learning. And that's when it all started making sense, JUJITSU RABBI AND THE GODLESS BLONDE is a coming-of-age tale (of sorts) and I just love those!

JUJITSU RABBI AND THE GODLESS BLONDE is an extremely entertaining and highly original memoir. Highly recommend to fans of memoirs and coming-of-age stories.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.


bermudaonion said...

I didn't realize this is a memoir. You don't know how that excites me! I have a feeling I'll like it even more than you did.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I am also interested in reading this!

Anonymous said...

Sounds interesting!

Beth F said...

I liked this more than you did -- and I loved that it was story of friendship, a refreshing change.