When Your Family Says No by Laya Martin book review

I was contacted a while ago asking if I would like to review When Your Family Says No by Laya, a memoir on a Jewish woman who grew up a devoutly orthodox Jewish family with strict rules and how as she grew up she fell in love with a non-Jewish man and how it turned both hers and her family’s lives upside down.

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When Your Family Says No tells the real-life story of Laya Steinberg and her upbringing in a strongly Jewish family where religion dictates her life including her relationships, her work and so much more. It’s a fascinating look into a religion that some may something about but not everyone may know the true depths of the religion.

Unlike many of my other reviews which are based on fictional stories and characters, do note that the points below on characters and plot are based more on how well the story was depicted and how, as a result of the description of the characters, how interesting I found the people in the book.

When Your Family Says No plot – 4.25/5

Growing up in a household where your father is a devout orthodox Jew, your mother is dedicated to keeping him happy and many of your friends and family are also of the same thought causes Laya to grow up with many specific views.

As she grows older, she begins to question some of the more stricter rules which means she has to focus more on being a woman and supporting a man in the future and how she can’t choose her husband but will be set up with one instead.

When one day she begins a new job (also frowned upon for women to work unless they’re yet to have a man to support) she falls in love with her boss at the time who isn’t Jewish. As the relationship grows more serious, she soon realises she’s going to have to make a drastic decision and moves away from home.

Laya recounts, having moved away, how strict her life was as she grew up. She still wishes to be Jewish and her partner respects this but she doesn’t want her future family’s lives to be restricted by the religion, she wants them to have their own free choice about how devout they are.

The big change causes a big rift in her family which really shows the seriousness and passion her family have for the religion and its values.

The story overall is fascinating. It was really interesting to not only learn some of the extreme views of the religion but from someone who lived through it, decided to leave it and is now thriving in her own life away from the religion.

When Your Family Says No characters – 4.25/5

Laya’s father was probably the biggest character during her childhood. He was the original devout orthodox Jew who then went on to convert her mother when they first got together and then continued to strictly practice the religion with his children growing up around him having to follow by the religion’s guidance.

Laya therefore grew up with a father whom she respected and admired but also a man who, due to having strict rules, she never truly felt that deeply close to him. Also, when the big moment comes later in life, she sees a completely different side to him that makes the whole situation much harder.

As well as her father, her huge life change massively affects Laya’s mother with whom she had the closest personal relationship. Her mother battles with wanting a relationship with her daughter but the feeling of betrayal that has come over her.

It’s a genuinely heartbreaking read at sometime that highlights how religion in general can cause people to become so passionate about certain rules and ideals that their relationships with family members can even be tested when they go against these.

When Your Family Says No final rating – 4.25/5

When Your Family Says No is a fascinating look into the orthodox Jewish community and how it affected one woman’s life and how when she grew older and had to leave her family, it really shone a spotlight on the religion and its limitations. Laya is an incredibly brave person for what she did and reading about her strict upbringing, her limitations as a woman in the religion and then the reaction from her family and friends of the religion when she chose to leave is a real eye opener and a genuinely insightful look into a world completely different from so many of those of us reading it.

Buy a copy of When Your Family Says No

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