Mirvis, Tova 1972-
MIRVIS, Tova 1972-
Born 1972; married Allan Galper; children: Eitan (son). Education: Columbia University, undergraduate degree, 1995, M.F.A., 1998. Religion: Jewish.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Alfred A. Knopf, 1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036.
The Ladies Auxiliary (novel), Norton (New York, NY), 1999.
The Outside World (novel), Knopf (New York, NY), 2004.
Also contributor to short fiction anthology Lost Tribe: Jewish Fiction from the Edge, Perennial (New York, NY), 2003.
Before relocating to New York City as an adult, Tova Mirvis was raised in a tightly knit Jewish Orthodox community in Memphis, Tennessee. Her debut novel, The Ladies Auxiliary, was drawn from her own familiarity with this striking blend of traditional southern and Orthodox cultures. At the heart of the novel is an exploration of an outsider's role in shaking up a community so insular that its members can simultaneously nurture and suffocate each other in their day-to-day affairs.
The outsider in question is Batsheva, a widowed Orthodox convert who arrives with her young daughter and conducts herself in a way that, while tame by most standards, threatens the community's sense of normalcy. The narration in The Ladies Auxiliary is communal; its point of view is that of Memphis's female Orthodox residents, a gaggle of fussy, tradition-minded women who are key members of the community and steadfastly set in their ways. Batsheva begins teaching the girls at the local Orthodox school, and her outsider's attitude and manner ultimately bring her into conflict with the girls' mothers.
Reviewers reacted warmly to Mirvis's novel. Said a Publishers Weekly reviewer, "Guilt, passion, prejudice, loneliness and independence—common themes in Jewish literature—are explored with sensitivity in a gentle story that captures its milieu with tolerant understanding." Some critics found the degree of narrow-mindedness present in Mirvis's characters to be less than believable: "Given their willful ignorance, preoccupation with their kitchens and emotional naivete," commented Debra Spark in the Washington Post Book World, "the women of the Ladies Auxiliary veer toward caricature." But Jane Shilling of the London Times offered praise for the book, noting it "has the deceptive simplicity of a Rabbinical fable … exotically permeated with the quirky sweetness of the American South."
Mirvis's sophomore effort, The Outside World, is a comic novel set in New York City. The story deals with two Orthodox families brought together by the marriage of their children and the subsequent collision of faith, family, and modern and traditional worlds.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 1, 1999, Nancy Pearl, review of The Ladies Auxiliary, p. 343.
Columbia College Today, May, 2000, Traci Mosser, "Memphis Blues."
New York Times Book Review, October 17, 1999, Roy Hoffman, "Hold the Chitterlings," p. 21.
Publishers Weekly, August 9, 1999, review of The Ladies Auxiliary, p. 339.
Times (London, England), June 3, 2000, Jane Shilling, review of The Ladies Auxiliary.
Washington Post Book World, December 12, 1999, Debra Spark, review of The Ladies Auxiliary.
Exclusive Bookshttp://www.exclusivebooks.com/interviews/ftf/tova_mirvis/ (February 2, 2004), "Interview with Tova Mirvis."*