◐ Book Name: Crooked Lines: A Single Mom’s Jewish Journey
◐ Author: Jenna Zark
◐ Genre: Memoir
◐ Pages: 236
◐ Synopsis (Goodreads):
When you part company with the life you’ve been living, how do you start a new one?
While trying to sort out the answer to this question-along with the question of what being Jewish meant to her—Zark began writing. This book was born of the journey. Married to the cantor of a Jewish synagogue, trying to fit into a life she hadn’t anticipated, Jenna Zark is completely unprepared when her marriage falls apart. Now staring down the prospect of being a single mom, Zark has to decide if and how to work with her former husband, now co-parent, to give her son a Jewish heritage. While the holidays and rituals in these pages are Jewish, the theme is universal and familiar for anyone who has ever experienced life-transforming loss. Crooked Lines is Jenna Zark’s honest and compelling story of navigating divorce, single parenthood, interfaith marriage, and losing parents while holding on to one’s humor and traditions.
Recommended for those looking for encouragement during life’s transitions and a simple read
◐ Review: 2/5 ⭐
I received a copy of this book from the publication team in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.
Although described as a memoir, Crooked Lines reads more like a collection of reflections that are only loosely connected to one another because they come from one person’s life. It’s not a memoir in the way I would typically think of one: where there is a clear beginning and end. Each chapter focuses on an aspect of Jewish life or holiday, and a life lesson the author has gained from it.
Throughout, Jenna reflects upon her faith, especially as a single mom divorced from a cantor, raising her son in the Jewish tradition while breaking away in other ways, wondering along the way what it really means to be Jewish.
The book is easy to read. In spite of essentially no prior knowledge of Judaism, the author described elements of it with both clarity and depth, so it was not difficult to follow.
At 200-some pages, it’s also a fairly light read. Jenna is personable and personal, sharing her story and thoughts with vulnerability and compassion. Even as she wrestles with the changes in her life, she writes like a friend, sometimes breaking the fourth wall to address the reader and give some words of encouragement. She writes like someone I should like to have conversations about life over a cup of coffee with.
While I can appreciate the personal style with which this book was written, it did not resonate with me, and there were times I grew tired of the self-empowering, almost-trite conclusive statements at the end of each chapter. At times it felt like the author was trying too hard to be encouraging (to herself or to the reader). Perhaps the book simply was not what I was expecting when I picked it up. Due to the format and lack of flow or cohesive story, I constantly lost interest and had to put it down out of boredom.
One could argue that that can also serve as the book’s strength because it needn’t be read quickly, but thoughtfully. Each chapter can easily stand on its own, like reading an article.
You don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate this book. Jenna Zark’s struggles are universal for anyone going through transitions in life, anyone looking for constants to cling to in such times. In the end, we all need those pillars to carry us through the vicissitudes of life.
Isn’t the point of life to number your days so you live and breathe them as intensely and deeply as you can?
Maybe that’s why I love horror movies and have since I was a child. It could be because my father loved them and used to entertain me by pretending to be The Phantom of the Opera. Or maybe it’s because no matter what I’m going through, people in horror movies always have it so much worse. And they can scream about it, too.