I often read the book a movie is based on before getting the ticket. I generally think it’s a good rule to follow. In the case of DISOBEDIENCE by Naomi Alderman, I read the book long ago, loved it, and cannot wait to see the characters—played by Rachel McAdams and Rachel Weisz—on the big screen.
In an Orthodox community in London, a beloved and well-respected rabbi has just passed away. His nephew Dovid is a reluctant successor whose wife, Esti, is not well regarded. Ronit, the late rabbi’s estranged daughter, returns from her life as a photographer in New York City. The three make up a group of outsiders in a community of belonging. But the relationship among these three is far more complicated: Esti and Ronit were once lovers, and Dovid is Ronit’s cousin.
For Ronit, coming home is filled with loss—of her mother, her father, her forbidden lover. Her return to the congregation is not warmly received. Ronit is intent on confronting Esti—why she made the choices she has, staying in the congregation and marrying a man. For Esti, Ronit’s return is filled with both joy and an underlying dread. Esti tries to protect Dovid from her past relationship with Ronit, while Ronit is tries to expose them and show Esti a different way of life. And Dovid is caught in the middle, trying to navigate between his role in the synagogue and the sudden upheaval in his marriage.
I loved this book. It shows the complexity of relationships, the societal pressure to conform, and the inner conflicts we face. It is a book of friendship and love, of community and acceptance, of faith. Alderman gently exposes the traditions of the Orthodox community and weaves prayers, blessings, and Torah passages throughout the story. It’s a compelling story about love in all its forms.
DISOBEDIENCE is a tender novel, beautifully written. I look forward to meeting Esti, Ronit, and Dovid again to see if they are as I remember them. I’m hoping the ending stays the same because I can’t imagine a better one for these three.