Harper Paperbacks, 464 pages, $14.99
Those craving a fix of Jewish pulp might enjoy “Jerusalem Maiden,” the latest novel by Talia Carner, women’s activist and former publisher of Savvy Women’s Magazine. Set in early 20th century Palestine during the decline of Ottoman rule, the novel follows Esther Kaminsky — a heroine inspired by the author’s grandmother — whose ultra-Orthodox lifestyle stifles her artistic and romantic urges. Will she reconcile her appetite for adventure with her deep-seated faith before it’s too late? And, perhaps more importantly: How much stilted dialogue and clunky imagery (“The iron felt heavier than a barrel of pickles”) will readers have to weather before they find out?
Carner presents a caricatured view of Haredi culture and the characters — excepting the heroine — are fairly one-dimensional. In Esther’s community, women spit superstitiously (“tfoo, tfoo, tfoo!”), bear children and sanctimoniously pronounce judgment on others at every opportunity.