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Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

The House of Love And Prayer

and Other Stories

by Tova Reich

Book cover for The House of Love And Prayer
Book cover for The House of Love And Prayer

"[Tova Reich’s] verbal blade is amazingly, ingeniously, startlingly, all-consumingly, all-encompassingly, deservedly, and brilliantly savage.” —Cynthia Ozick
In this extraordinary collection of short fiction, Tova Reich dives deep into the world of Orthodox Jewry—a world that her stories embrace with respect and affection while also poking at the faultlines in its unshakeable traditions.

The eight stories collected in this volume are all populated by seekers—of holiness, illumination, liberation, meaning, love. Their journeys unfold in the U.S., Israel, Poland, China, often in the very heart of the Jewish world, and are rendered with an insider’s authority. The narrative voice bringing all this to life has been described as fearlessly satiric and subversive, with a moral but not moralizing edge, equally alive to the sacred and the profane, comically absurd to the point of tragedy.
From the opening story, “The Lost Girl” (winner of a National Magazine Award in Fiction) to “Dead Zone” in the closing pages of this collection, we are confronted with souls unable to rest, unable to find release, searching for their place in this life, and beyond. Between these two stories, we encounter a true believer seeking personal redemption in China (“Forbidden City”), and an aged woman longing at the end of her life to find a way back to her mother (“The Plot”).Three of the stories, “The Page Turner,” “The Third Generation,” and “Dedicated to the Dead,” are animated by the long-term fallout from the Holocaust—generational trauma, abuse of memory, competitive victimization, and more. In the midst of all this is the story “The House of Love and Prayer,” which, in its way, encompasses the entire spectrum. 

The novelist Howard Norman has said, "Few contemporary writers are truly original. Tova Reich is one of them." Read this book and discover her satiric genius.

Book cover for The House of Love And Prayer
Book cover for The House of Love And Prayer

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“Moral, mordant, irreparably torn, Tova Reich is the conscience of the diaspora—of all diasporas—as she shows in her outstanding first collection of short fiction, The House of Love and Prayer.”

“[Tova Reich’s] verbal blade is amazingly, ingeniously, startlingly, all-consumingly, all-encompassingly, deservedly, and brilliantly savage.”

“Fearless, hysterically funny, and with the sharpest eye for truth and falsity, Tova Reich is a brilliant writer.”

“Reich’s stories have a density to them: long paragraphs weighted with rich description, bricks placed carefully to build constructions capable of supporting the weight of history. But they do not make for labored reading. Rather, they build worlds worth returning to.”

“Few contemporary writers are truly original. Tova Reich is one of them.”

“Reich’s five novels, including One Hundred Philistine Foreskins (2013) and Mother India (2018), are volcanic satires of Jewish traditions and paradoxes, holy fools and wily wheelers and dealers. Her fervid, whirlwind yet pinpoint imagination and insights are potently distilled in her lacerating, often macabre, acidly funny short stories, collected here for the first time. Reich forensically depicts human bodies dead and alive and lassos the thrashing emotions of those in acute distress. Her dialogue somersaults with Yiddish intonations and the feints and jabs of intimate conflicts and negotiations… In these ingenious, disturbing, radically incisive, stinging, and hilarious tales, Reich wrestles with antisemitism, misogyny, deceit, profiteering, faith, and guilt.”

“Reich’s trademark subjects and recognizable style fill the pages of The House of Love and Prayer and Other Stories, the publication of which marks the first time her short fiction has been gathered into book form. … This much seems certain: If Reich’s novels have provoked strong reactions in the past, this collection will fuel vivid conversations, too. Try it in your book club — if you dare.

“Reich’s prose brims with authenticity, as she utilizes Hebrew and Yiddish words as their speakers would, without unnecessary translation. Moreover, her prose is fluid and engrossing; the reading experience is easy but rewarding and always a joy. An impressive collection that captures the complexity and diversity of the Haredi Jewish world.”

“Tova Reich’s short sto­ries have rat­tled read­ers with their bit­ing satire since the mid-nineties. She finds absur­di­ty in cer­tain Jew­ish prac­tices and events, a humor that riffs on shared under­stand­ings with­in the diaspora.”

“The stories in Tova Reich's collection The House of Love and Prayer occupy the perspective of Orthodox Jews — they are written from the 'inner precincts,' to use a character's phrase, but for a readership in the 'outer sphere.' Some venture into the most distant and heretical margins of the faith. . .But even when Ms. Reich sets her stories in more traditional Orthodox milieus, the collision of mysticism and worldly interests gives rise to devastating satire. Women, the moving story 'The Lost Girl' suggests, are frequently treated like fungible commodities that exist in order to be quickly married off. But nowhere is Ms. Reich more trenchant than in 'The Third Generation,' an adaptation of the first chapter of her 2007 novel My Holocaust—one of the few 21st-century satires that successfully shocked people—about businessmen who have gotten rich certifying that corporations are sufficiently Holocaust-respectful. The obsession with memorialization is pursued further in the futuristic 'Dead Zone,' in which Israel has to be evacuated because it is designated a Unesco World Heritage site as the planet’s largest Jewish cemetery. . . If there is a quibble with this collection it is that Ms. Reich is only reluctantly interested in the art of narration, her brilliance lying more in startling premises and razor-sharp character sketches. Hers is no commonplace brilliance, however, and this book is full of black comedy at its most unsettling.

Tova Reich

TOVA REICH's most recent novel, Mother India (2018), was longlisted for the South Asia Literature Prize and a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award.  Other novels include MaraMaster of the ReturnThe Jewish WarMy Holocaust, and One Hundred Philistine Foreskins.  Her stories have appeared in the Atlantic, Harper’s, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of the National Magazine Award for Fiction, the Edward Wallant Book Award, and other prizes. She lives on the fringe of Washington, DC.