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". . . a good read that shows that it's better to be yourself than one of a crowd."
Strange Relations by Sonia Levitin is multifaceted. It tells the story of a young girl getting to know herself and learning her own limits. It restates the need for tolerance in our dealings with others. And it educates the reader in the traditional Jewish ways of life.
Marne Lewison has to find some place to go for the summer since her parents each have plans that don’t include her. And she’s afraid that their options may narrow down to camp. Camp was where she was when her younger sister Jody was kidnapped six years ago, and she swore she would never go back. So she offers to go visit her Aunt Carole and her family in Hawaii—her “strange” Aunt Carole as her mother calls her.
Envisioning a summer of beach fun, Marne lands to finds that her aunt and her family keep strict kosher Jewish ways rather than the reformed ways of Marne’s family. Aunt Chaya (her new name) and her cousin, Becca, wear clothes that cover most of their body even in the tropical heat. Uncle Yitz is the rabbi for the small congregation.
Marne is pulled into their hectic lives. Slowly she learns the reasons for the ways they live and, while she comes to respect them, their way of life is not for her. But she no longer ridicules them, and she learns more about her religion.
Finally the day she’s been waiting for arrives when her best friend, Kim, lands in Hawaii. Marne is allowed to spend time with the Hadleys and it feels like old times. But she notices things that bother her—things that she hadn’t noticed before like how Kim takes drinks and takes drugs and makes fun of her for refusing. By analyzing Kim’s behavior, Marne realizes something about real friends and acknowledges she had turned her back on true friends because of her own pain six years ago.
Strange Relations is a good read that shows that it's better to be yourself than one of a crowd. It also shows that a real friend will respect you and your values. These are lessons that everyone has to learn as they grow up.
Reviewer: Denise Lowe