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Raised a born-again agnostic, Robin Chotzinoff had no interest in religion—and practically no experience in it— until she turned forty. When she suddenly discovered a belief in God, she had no idea what to do next.
In Holy Unexpected she describes her journey from a privileged New York childhood through years of unhappiness, drugs, and drift. She investigates what she believed in before she believed in God (the healing power of junk food, music, psychopharmacology), and how a happy marriage impelled her toward a higher power. When she discovers that Judaism embraces arguing with God, hot sex, and acts as opposed to beliefs, she embarks on a journey to reconstruct her Jewish heritage and forge a relationship with her faith.
Robin wrestles with the meaning of Torah, discovers how to keep the Sabbath and still go to Walmart for duct tape, and learns to pray while snowboarding. But her real education in the meaning of Judaism occurs as she rides the ups and downs of day-to-day life, and prepares both for her bat mitzvah and for her father's death.
Writing with enormous humor and intimacy, Chotzinoff takes readers on an unexpected religious journey lit by humor and grace.
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Robin Chotzinoff is the author of People With Dirty Hands: The Passion for Gardening, and People Who Sweat. An award-winning columnist and writer at Denver's alternative weekly Westword and at The Denver Post, her writing has also appeared in Outside, The New York Times Magazine, Food and Wine, and Garden Design, among other publications. She has recently moved to Austin, Texas.From Publishers Weekly:
Starred Review. The cadence of every conversion narrative is one of lost-and-found, and this edgy memoir by Chotzinoff, a freelance writer and convert to Judaism, does not disappoint. We learn of her rarefied and decidedly secular New York childhood, where music and free-flowing liquor framed intellectual discussions late into the night. This led to a wandering adolescence and young adulthood marked by drugs, sexual promiscuity, depression and binge eating. But Chotzinoff's conversion narrative eschews the traditional sudden epiphany for a gradual, postmodern transformation; when she discovers Judaism at an eclectic Denver synagogue, the change comes across less as a bolt of lightning than a long-desired and tentative homecoming. Her story is also refreshingly devoid of the usual convert's fervor—she considers herself observant, but does not strive to keep every jot and tittle of halakah. As she learns to quilt, make latkes (the low-fat version just won't cut it, she discovers) and keep Shabbat, Chotzinoff uncovers herself anew in the rigors of an ancient faith. Her writing is acerbically funny and generally devoid of sentimentality, which makes the memoir's more powerful moments—such as the haunting beauty of her daughter's bat mitzvah—unexpectedly emotional. (Aug.)
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