Friday 2 March 2018

# 8 Someone to #Lean on- #Leah

Friday means it's time to give those supporting secondary characters a bit of the limelight!

Today, I'm joined by my Crooked Cat author friend  Miriam Drori who has chosen to feature a secondary character - -Leah  - whose impact is strong in her contemporary novel Neither Here Nor There

Welcome to my Friday series, Miriam, it's great to have you back again! It's been a few years since I read Neither Here Nor There so it's excellent to be reminded of Leah's  role in the novel.  There are a number of themes covered in your story and one of those is essentially breaking free of traditions. Thank you for sending along the photograph because I think that'll also help my readers to imagine the scenes. I'll let you explain a bit about Leah's role so that we can get to know her better!

Neither Here Nor There, set in Jerusalem, is a romance told from two points of view: the heroine (Esty) and the hero (Mark). Esty has just left the closed, haredi community in which she was brought up. Mark is a new immigrant from the UK. Neither point of view is from inside the haredi community. Esty, despite knowing that community from the inside, always had doubts about its way of life. Mark has never experienced it.

That’s why I’m delighted Nancy has given me the opportunity to explore the motives and thinking of Leah, who has only a minor role in the novel. Leah is nineteen, the same age as Esty, and they were at school together. Leah married at sixteen, has three children – all under three, of course – and hopes God will reward her with several more. She feels particularly blessed because her eldest is a boy. Her husband spends his days studying and she admires him for that. She herself was never a very good student and certainly never thought of questioning anything they were taught.

Among the teachings Leah has never doubted are the evils of television, the Internet, the wearing by women of men’s clothes (i.e. trousers) and the baring of arms and legs. She’s happy she learned these things and feels sorry for all the others, who haven’t had that opportunity. Apart from cleaning, cooking and looking after the babies, Leah helps her mother in the grocery store. Usually, she has no reason to go out of Mea She’arim, the small and crowded neighbourhood in which she lives, so close and yet so far from the rest of Jerusalem.

What makes Leah step out of her neighbourhood one morning is the fact that she has to register the birth of her newly born daughter at the Interior Ministry office. And that’s where she encounters Esty, her former friend, who has just requested a passport in the same office. Leah can’t understand why Esty left the community. She knows Esty was clever and thinks she would have been a light to the women of their community if she hadn’t thrown it all away to join the infidels.

Courtesy of Miriam Drori- Mea She'arim, Jerusalem
Miriam's sent along a short excerpt that explains Leah perfectly:

Putting the receipt for her passport application in her bag, Esty made for the stairs to go back down to the entrance. She reached the exit from the office just as a mother was wheeling a pram from the other department on that floor – the one for registering births and deaths. Esty recognised her and, without thinking, called out, “Leah!”

Leah looked up and stood for a moment staring at Esty, her mouth wide open. Esty was also transfixed, but she took in the pram that held two children, one of them probably a new-born, whose birth had to be registered here. By Leah’s side was another child, dressed as a boy but with long straight hair. Of course. Boys under three couldn’t have their hair cut. It was odd how practices that had always seemed so normal were beginning to feel strange.

The boy started to call. “Mummy. Come.” Suddenly, Leah turned away from Esty and continued to wheel the pram to the lift. She hadn’t said a word.

Esty went down a few stairs and then sat on one of them. She had no wish to bump into Leah again on the ground floor. If anything brought out the difficulties of leaving the community, it was this meeting with an old friend. Even though Esty had always known this sort of behaviour by friends and acquaintances was likely, when it really did happen it came as a terrible shock.

Esty and Leah had grown up together. They’d played together, sung songs together and talked of their dreams for the future, the men they hoped they’d marry. True, they’d seen less of each other since Leah had got married, especially when her babies began to arrive. But when they’d met, Leah had always seemed pleased to talk to her childhood friend again, and delighted when Esty cooed over one of the babies.

Now, Leah wouldn’t even say hello to Esty. Probably all her old friends would react in the same way. The incident brought home to Esty what it meant to cut yourself off from everything you’d ever known and begin again with nothing.

A man coming down the stairs stepped round Esty and then looked back at her. “Are you all right?”

“Yes, thank you.” Esty heaved herself up and continued down, confident that Leah and her entourage would have left by then.

Nancy says: That really is a very poignant part of the novel, Miriam, but I recall Esty as being a strong girl who gets on with the choices she has made, difficult though they are for her. 

Thank you for inviting me back to your blog, Nancy! For another excerpt from Neither Here Nor There, there’s a reading of the first chapter here:

Miriam Drori

Miriam Drori was born and brought up in London and now lives with her husband and one of three grown up children in Jerusalem.
With a degree in Maths and following careers in computer programming and technical writing, Miriam has been writing novels and short stories for fourteen years. After some success with short stories, Miriam turned her hand to longer fictional works, publishing "Neither Here Nor There" and "The Women Friends: Selina" co-written with Emma Rose Millar.
Miriam’s latest publication is non-fiction and explores the common but little-known disorder called social anxiety, which has been her companion for most of her life. It looks at social anxiety from different points of view, with the help of many quotes from ‘sufferers’ who agreed for their words to be used anonymously. The book has been highly recommended by ‘sufferers’ as well as professionals in this field.
When not writing, Miriam enjoys reading, hiking, dancing and travelling.

Use the following to find Miriam: 
Neither Here Nor There:
The Women Friends: Selina:
Social Anxiety Revealed:
Miriam Drori can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, Wattpad and on her website/blog and social anxiety blog.

(You can also find more about Miriam's previous visits to this blog by using the 'Search' facility on the right sidebar.) 

Thank you for coming back and reminding me about the role that Leah plays, Miriam, because I recall her impact being important when it comes to Esty reconciling herself with the choices she's made regarding leaving the community. Before reading Neither Here Nor There I knew very little about the Haredi Community and Jerusalem in general - I can thoroughly recommend it as great read but also if you're interested in learning a bit about that background! 



  1. Nancy, thank you so much for hosting me and for your lovely recommendation of my book. L'hayim - Slainthe - Cheers!

    1. Well deserved and you are always welcome, Miriam.


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