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March 09, 1990 - Image 44

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-03-09

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

I BOOKS 1

Romance Novel

Continued on preceding page

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mitted suicide with her infant
son.
"It happened right before
we left for California," Ragen
says. "I kept thinking about
it and wondering, how could
we (the community) have
saved that girl? What was it
that drove her to do it?
"I don't know what the real
story was. But you hear
rumors afterwards. What I've
done in the book is represen-
tative of the things that peo-
ple told ma The real husband
used to dress impeccably, and
was harsh and inflexible. She
wanted to work and he
wouldn't let her; she wanted
to go to the movies and he
said no. Whatever she wanted
to do he said no.
"After she committed
suicide her father came to
Israel to prevent her husband
from inheriting anything the
girl left behind. She was from
a very wealthy family and
everything (the couple had)
came from (her parents). The
father went to court to prove
that the husband had driven
his wife to suicide. He had let-
ters that she had left around
the apartment saying, 'My
husband is not to inherit
anything.' But the court ruled
that since she hadn't signed
the letters, there was no proof
that she had written them.
and the husband inherited
everything.
"That really made me
angry," Ragen continues. "I
wanted to bring her back to
life and to right the wrong.
There were rumors at the
time that she was crazy. But
I could imagine a situation
where somebody could be
pushed to the brink like that,
and I tried to explore it in fic-
tion."
She spent three years
writing the book, working
evenings and Sundays. Her
husband, who was her only
manuscript reader, was sup-
portive throughout.
Her children, on the other
hand, reacted the way many
children might act upon hear-
ing that their mother was
writing a book. "Actually,"
Ragen laughs, "my kids
didn't even look up when I
told them I was writing a
book. They just said, 'Yeah,
Mom. You're always writing
something.'
"I said, 'It's going to be a
bestseller. You'll see.' They
humored her for the duration,
but didn't really get excited
until she sold it. Then, there
was mass hysteria.
Ragen was a little con-
cerned while writing the book
about revealing what
amounts to "insider" infor-
mation about the Orthodox
community, and about paint-
ing some unflattering por-
traits of people within that
community.

"I had a lot of misgivings,
and am not 100 percent hap-
py with everything I said
about Haredim. I'm a little
ashamed at how harsh the
characters are. If I did it over,
I think I would down-peddle
it, or pick a different topic,"
she says.
Yet everyone she knows in
the Orthodox community
who has read the book liked
it very much, she says. "It's
very popular and I think the
reason for this is because it
had such positive things to
say about Israel. There hasn't
been a book out recently, that

I know of, that says such
good things about Jerusalem
and about Jews in general."
Religion is actually the
main value of the book, and
the point at which it departs
from typical genre romance
writing. "One of the things
that is most valid about
Bathsheva and David (the
man with whom she falls in
love)," Ragen says, "is their
belief in God."
As a writer in the Orthodox
community, Ragen is a lone
wolf. She knows only one
other author in the com-
munity.
With the success of her first
book to buoy her, Ragen is
now hard at work on her sec-
ond, writing in the morning
hours until her son finishes
kindergarten. "This one is so
slow," she says of her writing.
"The other one was so fast,
but this is like pulling teeth.
Every day I take it out and
re-write it."
The success of Jephte's
Daughter has brought some
new comforts to the Ragen
household. It allowed them to
build a new addition to their
home, specifically a writing
studio for Naomi. But more
important than that, Ragen
feels, is that the book made
believers of her children. "It
made them understand that
you can have a dream, work
for it, and it can come true.
And that's a wonderful lesson
to teach children, I think." ❑

Kim Zetter is a free-lance
writer in Israel.

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