The Choice: A Novel of Love, Faith, and Talmud

Written by Maggie Anton
Review by Hilary Daninhirsch

Inspired by characters and situations Chaim Potok’s classic novel, The Chosen, Talmudic scholar and author Maggie Anton has written a love story steeped in faith, tradition, and the Talmud.

In 1950s Brooklyn, Hannah Eisen is a journalist at a Jewish newspaper. She interviews a Talmud professor, Nathan Mandel, about his life and his controversial classroom methods. Hannah is very intelligent and has the mind and the drive to learn Talmud, but as a woman, she is prohibited from learning. However, she somehow convinces Nathan to meet with her in secret to teach her Talmud—and the two fall in love.

Meanwhile, Nathan is grappling with family issues of his own, as his father never revealed to him the circumstances surrounding his mother’s death, leaving him with a gaping hole concerning his own childhood history. A concurrent storyline is the tenuous relationship between Nathan’s best friend Benny and his wife, Sharon, whose marital troubles stem from Sharon not being accepted by the rest of the women in their tightly knit Orthodox Jewish community. The progression of Hannah and Nathan’s relationship, as well as Hannah’s investigative journalism projects, add a dimension to the book apart from the Talmudic discussions the characters engage in frequently.

The Choice is a compelling book about the role of women in a patriarchal society. The author pays homage to Chaim Potok’s characters in a respectful way. Though the storyline is interesting and nuanced, it’s overly long and wordy at times. However, it should greatly appeal to those readers interested in scholarly Talmudic debates. But at its heart, it is a love story, and a unique one at that.