I am a big reader but I don’t usually go for Jewish-themed books, having found many of them in the past to be twee and self-serving, pushing religion down my throat. When I read, I want to lose myself in a story, I want to be carried along with the narrator, to be a bystander as events unfold. I don’t want lectures on how to be a better person.
Nicole Nathan’s book Let My RV Go! has made me reevaluate the Jewish-theme book embargo. While Judaism and Pesach are central to the theme of her book, it isn’t shove-down-your-throat religion.
Yes, there were a couple of scenes where I thought the “gam zu l’tovah” (everything happens for the good) angle was a tad overdone, but other than that, I really enjoyed this book.
The Berkovitz family, ba’alei teshuvah, live in Middleton, Canada, and one year decide that instead of making Pesach at home, they will rent an RV (recreational vehicle) and schlep their family down south to a Florida trailer park for the holiday. They convince their close friends to join them, and their adventure begins. It’s more than just a road trip–it’s a spiritual journey, a quest to find meaning.
Pauline, Mrs. Berkovitz, is the chronicler of this trip, and interspersed between relating events she discusses her faith and her journey to religious Judaism. She questions many things, and envies her husband his deep faith. I found I could relate to her–we both believe in celebrating our religion, but we question the role that “they”–those ubiquitous other people–play in the way we observe our Judaism.
Nathan weaves the story so well, you feel as if you’ve hitched a ride in the family’s RV, have participated in events on the long drive down, and are sitting at their Seder with them and the assortment of people they have picked up along the way. You feel the angst and the joy, the stress and the relief.
Honestly, I felt a little envious. I would love to just pack everyone up and drive somewhere else for Pesach, and not spend weeks cleaning, cooking, and making ridiculous lists. Pesach seems to be so chill for the Berkovitzes and their friends the Shapiros. I want that. I want to be able to be at the beach four hours before Seder–and for that not to stress me out. I’d love to give our kids that kind of memory.
If you want a good book to read over the holiday, Let My RV Go! should be a definite pick. (My boys even expressed an interest in reading it after I gave them a brief synopsis. That’s a huge plus as far as I am concerned.) v
Let My RV Go! is published by Ktav and available at ktav.com.