This Is Not a Love Story follows a Hassidic family living in Brooklyn and struggling to raise Nachum, their fourth child who has undiagnosed autism. This is the third child’s memoir, a daughter only a year older than Nachum, and it focuses on her childhood. The narrative ends when Nachum and Judy are about 13.
When recounting stories from their youth, writers of memoirs often insert their adult opinions into the narrative. It was interesting to read a book where the child’s perspective is mostly left alone. Judy’s frustrations with her brother and his condition weren’t glossed over. Adult Judy didn’t come in to say that she should have been more patient or understanding as a kid. She didn’t tell you that things would get better and that it would all work out in the end. Judy puts the reader in the mind of her young self, making you feel all of her frustration and lack of understanding.
My only real complaint about the narrative is that there is too much going on. There’s Judy’s relationship with her brother, her relationship with her faith and people of other religions, and the question of how her parents came to be married. On top of that, there are parts of the book that discuss Judy’s family history. It adds up to an awful lot of characters. The narrative already has to deal with her large immediate family, her extended family in Israel, and her neighbors in Brooklyn. The parts about her ancestry could have been streamlined and cut down.
I would love to recommend this to someone who has more in common with the family in this book. I have no children, no experience with autism, and no religious beliefs. But though I am not the target audience, I can see the strengths of this book. This story would be really powerful for someone who has raised a child with autism or made sense of the differences between religious teachings and what they experience in real life.
Title: This Is Not a Love Story
Author: Judy Brown
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
My rating: ☆☆☆ (3 stars)
Recommended for: anyone who is a parent.
Release date: July 28, 2015
I received this book from Goodreads First Reads.