You Are Not What We Expected by Sidura Ludwig
English | 2020 | General Fiction/Classics | ePUB | 1.0 MB
This stunningly intimate collection of stories is an exquisite portrait of a Jewish community — the secular and religious families who inhabit it and the tensions that exist there — that illuminates the unexpected ways we remain connected during times of change.
When Uncle Isaac moves back from L.A. to help his sister, Elaine Levine, care for her suddenly motherless grandchildren, he finds himself embroiled in even more drama than he would like in their suburban neighbourhood. Meanwhile, a nanny miles from her own family in the Philippines, cares for a young boy who doesn’t fit in at school. A woman in mid-life contends with the task of cleaning out the house in which she grew up, while her teenage son struggles with why his dad moved out. And down the street, a mother and her two daughters prepare for a wedding and transitions they didn’t see coming.
Spanning fifteen years in the lives of a multi-generational family and their neighbours, this remarkable collection is an intimate portrait of a suburban Jewish community by a writer with a keen eye for detail, a gentle sense of humour, and an immense literary talent.
Isaac would like people to understand that the world has rules, and that these rules should not be ignored. You should not kill another human being. You should not steal. You should make an effort to look after your community and help it to flourish. And you should never, not under any circumstances, fly one country’s flag underneath another’s.
“It’s degrading!” he is yelling at the man with the black velvet skullcap. “It’s disrespectful! I can’t even stand to look at what you’ve done. You want to honour Israel, but you’ve done just the opposite!”
The man, the principal of the very school Isaac has barged into, is nodding his head politely — albeit with his arms crossed in front of his chest, his back very straight, feet shoulder-width apart. As Isaac berates him, the principal wonders if now is the right time to organize proper security at the school. Don’t ask how Isaac (elderly, short, inconspicuous) managed to just walk right into this building. Other schools in this predominately Jewish neighbourhood just north of Toronto have elaborate security checks, offices positioned right by the front door, secretaries with panic buttons, security guards out front. But Isaac was just out on his morning walk. He was just taking the route he always takes, past the brownstone townhouses, past the strip mall filled with kosher shops, a bakery, a pizza parlour. Past the Lubavitch community centre and then past the houses on the boulevard, which are starting to look tired from all the children who live in them. Tired the way a favourite T-shirt gets frayed and faded on someone who, over the years, has put on ten pounds. He walks past all the bicycles and scooters, the double strollers parked on the narrow front lawns, and then passes this school, of which he never took notice. Until today. On the flagpole there are two flags instead of one. And the Israeli flag is flying below the Canadian.
The principal takes a breath when Isaac appears to have paused. “Every year, the week of Israel’s birthday, we fly the Israeli flag in its honour,” he says. “Many of our graduates go on to make aliyah. We proudly support Eretz Yisroel.”
“So invest in another flagpole!” Isaac yells.
“We’ll take your suggestion under consideration.” The principal places his hand on Isaac’s shoulder, leading him to the front door.
“No you won’t! You’re going to ignore me. You know, there are 193 flagpoles at the United Nations. This is about international law!”
One of the teachers, a young woman in a knit beret and an ankle-length denim skirt, has stopped to watch the commotion.
“Rabbi,” she says, her voice quiet but shaking, “should I call security?”
The principal shakes his head. They both know there is no security. They would have to call the police. And Isaac, while certainly irate, is hardly threatening. “The gentleman was just leaving.”