Perhaps the most surprising and intriguing novel on the Man Booker Prize longlist, The Marrying of Chani Kaufman is a debut originally published by a small independent Scottish press that is already garnering significant attention worldwide.
London, 2008. Chani Kaufman is a nineteen-year-old woman, betrothed to Baruch Levy, a young man whom she has seen only four times before their wedding day. The novel begins with Chani standing “like a pillar of salt,” wearing a wedding dress that has been passed between members of her family and has the yellowed underarms and rows of alteration stitches to prove it. All of the cups of cold coffee and small talk with men referred to Chani’s parents have led up to this moment. But the happiness Chani and Baruch feel is more than counterbalanced by their anxiety: about the realities of married life; about whether they will be able to have fewer children than Chani’s mother, who has eight daughters; and, most frighteningly, about the unknown, unspeakable secrets of the wedding night. As the book moves back to tell the story of Chani and Baruch’s unusual courtship, it throws into focus a very different couple: Rabbi Chaim Zilberman and his wife, Rebbetzin Rivka Zilberman. As Chani and Baruch prepare for a shared lifetime, Chaim and Rivka struggle to keep their marriage alive—and all four, together with the rest of the community, face difficult decisions about the place of faith and family life in the contemporary world.