“God loved her because ‘the walls of her home never saw a hair on her head.’ Even when Hannah bathed, she had maids hold up sheets around her. She was keeping covered just to please God. That’s modesty. A woman who is always modest before God is like a woman in constant prayer. Hatznea leches. Hannah is our role model.”
Leah Lax’s Uncovered whispers directly into the reader’s ear, generously sharing the most intimate secrets of Orthodox Hasidic Judaism, the loves of her life, and her turbulent quest to simply belong.
Lax’s story opens on her wedding day, where upon at age nineteen she is wed to a man seven years older. Never mind that the two have shared only one formal date, and never mind that the bride is most definitely attracted to women. The trials, triumphs, and shame Lax endures from that awkward, but hopeful, afternoon forward carry the reader right along with her. I found myself blushing at descriptions of bathing, menstruating, procreating and birthing, and crying at her thoroughly potent fears of destroying her marriage vows, failing her children, and disappointing God.
The defining magic of this memoir is in every immediate detail, from the massive structures of tradition to the smallest daily requirements of the religion she so deeply wanted to define her. Readers who have no familiarity with Hasidic Judaism will still feel immersed in Lax’s memories – her own desperation, confusion, and devotion.
More a midlife coming-of-age than a midlife crisis, I found Uncovered to be uplifting in its honesty. As Lax reminds us, “understanding sometimes comes in degrees, like growth. Like age.”
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