Ladies and germs, the first review is in. (This is from PW, the industry rag that reviews books a couple of months in advance of the release date, so that (among other things) potential reviewers can skim the listings of new books and decide what looks interesting and worth their time. Surprised‘s pub date is August 15.)

In this memoir of her journey from punk-partying atheist teenager to rabbi-in-training (yarmulke and all), Ruttenberg chronicles the awakening and intensification of religious life. The book’s breezy style, mixing personal anecdotes with reflection, is balanced by thoughtful narrative about what religion is and what it demands of its adherents. The author weaves in her religious studies training gently, applying occasional references to classical theologians (Kierkegaard and Maimonides), medieval mystics (Teresa of Ávila), and modern thinkers (Thomas Merton and Elliot Dorff) as they illuminate a particular insight or experience. Although the details of Ruttenberg’s experience—including wild parties in California’s dotcom boom, a lonely Shabbat in Tel Aviv, and praying in tefillin—may be unique, her description of her growing awareness of the power of ritual, the support of community, and religion as relationship will resonate with all sorts of spiritual seekers. (Aug.)

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