Olive Days

A Novel

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9781640096530 | Hardcover 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 | 320 pages Buy it Now

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Book Description

A smoldering debut novel about a young mother in an Orthodox Jewish community of Los Angeles whose quest for authenticity erupts in a passionate affair following a night of wife swapping

Rina Kirsch is a young mother and Modern Orthodox Jew in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood of Los Angeles. Dutifully keeping to the formidable expectations of a traditional household connects Rina with generations past and those to come. But a contradiction burns at her center: Rina is an atheist. She is also stymied in her life and marriage.

Hoping to reinvigorate their relationship, Rina’s husband convinces her to partake in a night of wife swapping with other Orthodox couples. Rather than preserve her marriage, however, the swap plunges Rina down a heady path that begins with a rekindled passion for painting and culminates in an intoxicating affair with Will Ochoa, her married art teacher. Clandestine rendezvous and stolen moments of ardor awaken Rina to an existence beyond the confining parameters of tradition, offering a glimpse at the possible life she left behind in the olive groves of her youth. As the blush of erotic thrill comes into sharp contrast with the complications of living a secret life, Rina must decide if it’s worth sacrificing everything she’s ever known to fully inhabit the uncharted landscape unfolding before her, one where her needs take precedence.

Told in the fevered tenor common to both lust and religious devotion, Olive Days is an unforgettable story of the agonizing choices women make to balance duty against desire.

About the Author

Praise For This Book

Los Angeles Daily News, A Most Anticipated Summer Read

"[A] smart, steamy first novel." —Phyllis Braun, Arizona Jewish Post

"A very lustful book about sex and religion. What do we want from these things? Can they coexist? Can you be yourself with both or none? The questions tackled in the book are tackled in a careful and sincere manner. A very hot book, indeed." —Adam Vitcavage, Debutiful

"Intense, uninhibited [. . .] this bold debut is unlike anything you’ve seen before." —Kirkus Reviews

"Olive Days is a completely immersive novel, unlike anything I've read. We're in so deep with Rina, as she navigates the complicated restraints of her Orthodox Jewish community, that every meal, every walk, every discovery of her possible choices feels immediate. Emerson's prose is not about religion or desire, those abstract ideas, but about a woman's burning disbelief in the very structure of her life, and her absolute insistence on sexual passion and freedom." —Susan Straight, bestselling author of Mecca and In the Country of Women

"Thrumming with color and scent, alive with idea and ache, Olive Days is keenly observed, beautifully written, propulsive, poignant, and profound." —Moriel Rothman-Zecher, author of Before All the World and Sadness is a White Bird

"Olive Days is a lush and intoxicating Los Angeles daydream. Emerson is the real deal—a stylist whose every sentence captures how it feels to be alive, to be in love, to live in the aching distance between who you want to be and who you are." —Ruth Madievsky, author of All-Night Pharmacy

"Olive Days is a story of loneliness and the forbidden lusts that simmer beneath the rigid traditions of Orthodox Judaism. Emerson crafts a haunting portrait of Rina, a woman plunged into quiet fury after her husband pressures her into a night of wife swapping. Through Rina's smoldering point of view we see a woman's heart divided between desire and duty, alienation and longing, in a heartbreaking novel that will resonate with anyone who has ever wished to be known." —Elizabeth Gonzalez James, author of The Bullet Swallower

"This is a stunning achievement from a fiercely talented debut novelist. Jessica’s voice is fresh, daring, and surprising. Olive Days is a book you cannot put down, and a story that will continue to grip you, long after you’ve finished reading." —Rabbi Sharon Brous