In Sickness and In Health / Yom Kippur in a Gym

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Pub Date 01 Mar 2024 | Archive Date 15 May 2024

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This flip book is comprised of two novellas:

In Sickness and In Health - Lily had epilepsy as a child, so her most cherished goal has always been to be “normal”. By age 45 she has a “normal” life, including a family, friends, and an artistic career, and no one, not even her husband, knows the truth about her past. But now some cartoons she drew threaten to reveal her childhood secret and destroy her marriage and everything she has worked so hard for. A moving novella about shame, secrets, disabilities, and the limits and power of love.

Yom Kippur in a Gym – Five strangers at a Yom Kippur service in a gym are struggling with personal crises. Lucy can’t accept her husband’s Parkinson’s diagnosis. Ira, rejected by his lover, is planning suicide. Rachel worries about losing her job. Ezra is tormented by a mistake that ruined his career. Tom contemplates severing contact with his sisters. Then a medical emergency unexpectedly throws these five strangers together, and in one hour all their lives are changed in ways they would never have believed possible.

This flip book is comprised of two novellas:

In Sickness and In Health - Lily had epilepsy as a child, so her most cherished goal has always been to be “normal”. By age 45 she has a “normal” life...

Advance Praise

With an astute eye, Nora Gold writes with depth and emotion. Her novellas, Yom Kippur in a Gym and In Sickness and In Health, delve the inner workings of the human heart. Her writing reminds us that we're all fallible beings, and her characters are living, breathing entities that reach out and touch our souls. —Faye Kellerman is the author of the best-selling Decker/Lazarus mystery series; her latest book is The Hunt.

What is so wonderful and compelling about both these novellas is the deep compassion and understanding that Gold has for her characters. With insight and a keen sense of the conflicted, complex, vulnerable, hopeful and yes, beautiful condition of being fully human, both works do the necessary and inspiring work of making vivid what it is to be immersed in self, in consciousness, in relationships, in life itself.  —Gary Barwin, award-winning author of Yiddish for Pirates and Nothing the Same Everything Haunted

In this excellent book, the writing always thrusts, compelling readers to see themselves in the characters’ frailties of body and soul and to ask themselves the questions of conscience and mortality that these novellas pose with great eloquence. —Nomi Eve, author of The Family Orchard and Henna House and Director of the Drexel MFA in Creative Writing

Nora Gold’s two novellas are full of wry humour and unusual perspectives, all wonderfully conveyed.  —Norman Ravvin teaches literature at Concordia University; his latest book is Who Gets In: An Immigration Story.

With an astute eye, Nora Gold writes with depth and emotion. Her novellas, Yom Kippur in a Gym and In Sickness and In Health, delve the inner workings of the human heart. Her writing reminds us that...

Marketing Plan

Publicity campaigns in the US and Canada carried out by Guernica Editions and River Street Writing. 
Readings across Toronto & GTA, Montreal, other cities across Canada TBA.
Wide media outreach. The author is available for interviews. Media copies available upon request. 
Main launch in Toronto with Adath Israel Synagogue.

Publicity campaigns in the US and Canada carried out by Guernica Editions and River Street Writing. 
Readings across Toronto & GTA, Montreal, other cities across Canada TBA.
Wide media outreach. The...

Available Editions

EDITION Other Format
ISBN 9781771838658
PRICE $18.95 (USD)

Available on NetGalley

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Average rating from 3 members

Featured Reviews

This book comprises of two unrelated novellas.
In Sickness and In Health is about chronic illness, and oh boy will it resonate with anyone who has a chronic illness - particularly those who have gone their whole lives with doctors throwing their hands up at repeated tests not showing anything wrong. It's visceral and unsympathetic to anyone who might not "get it", and I could see some readers not really appreciating the realism. The narration deviates partway through to a history of the narrator's childhood epilepsy, which distracted me at first but I also found immensely compelling. I don't think the synopsis really accurately fits the story, the drama about the cartoons is a very small component at the end of this story and does not drive the narrative.
Yom Kippur in a Gym takes place in the last hour of a Yom Kippur service and puts us in the mind of half a dozen congregants, all lost in their own thoughts about what the Day of Atonement represents for themselves. I grew up going to Rosh/Yom services in a gym so the visuals definitely hit home! I also connected deeply to the wandering mind of each congregant, trying to tie their thoughts back to the present. I understand why it didn't, because this isn't that sort of book, but I would have liked to see perhaps one more chapter in this story showing the morning after and how firmly decisions have stuck with each of the characters.
On the surface, the two novellas don't really belong together, but I think they are both about introspection and allowing the outside into your life to some extent. My final rating overall is 3.5, rounded up to 4*.
Thank you NetGalley and Guernica Editions for the opportunity to review this book. All opinions are my own!

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In a Nutshell: A flip book containing two novellas, each having a thought-provoking character-oriented story. Loved the writing and character development in both the tales, though the second was a teeny bit esoteric for my comfort level. Nevertheless, a worthy pair of novellas great for literary fiction lovers.

This is a set of two standalone novellas by acclaimed Jewish writer Nora Gold. Ms. Gold is known for establishing, an online literary journal devoted exclusively to Jewish fiction. Even since I read her compiled collection titled ‘18: Jewish Stories Translated from 18 Languages’, I have been curious to try more of her works. This flip book came as the perfect chance to explore her writing in detail, and my, what a wonderful experience it has been!

As this is a flip book, you can basically flip it to either side and read a story, an experience sadly impossible on my Kindle because I had the digital ARC. But the organised side of me was very pleased to discover that the first story ended at exactly the 50% point – the nerd in me loves the attention to details such as these. Thankfully, this is only available in paperback, so you can relish the flip book as it is meant to be.

Both the novellas have many features in common, and yet are distinct. Both are in literary fiction style, so both are character-oriented. While the first one has only one major character and the second one has multiple, each still ensures that we get inside the mind of the specific character and understand them in and out. Both stories have beautiful writing that enhances the impact of the story. Both are also somewhat slow in pace, which is okay for a literary work but some readers might not like. I had no issues with the languid pace as the plot kept me engaged.

The mood in both novellas is a combination of introspective and melancholy, with the first being more melancholy and the second weighing heavier on the introspection. To balance these heavy emotions, the stories contain plenty of wit and snark, which work perfectly to deliver a memorable experience.

Here’s the individual feedback on the novellas:

1. In Sickness and In Health:
An outstanding story about a woman named Lily who had epilepsy as a child and was told by her mother that she would never have a ‘normal’ life. However, now at age 45, she has a loving husband, college-going kids, a wonderful house and a satisfying job. Not even her husband knows about her erstwhile epilepsy. But now that Lily is suffering from some mysterious ailment that comes and goes with shocking regularity, she is sure that the Gods are punishing her for having the ‘normal’ life that she wasn’t supposed to.
The Goodreads blurb for this novella is intriguing enough, but it doesn't represent the story well by somehow making the plot sound more sinister. The actual story is even better.
Lily is an interesting character, and through her narration, she shows us a whole gamut of emotions ranging from hope to frustration to love to anger to doubt. I enjoyed how she would think absolutely serious thoughts, and suddenly pop in a funny but sarcastic interjection. Lily also has a funny habit that involves a multitude of languages. If you want choice abusive phrases from across the world, this story offers you plenty of resources. 😉 Lily’s husband Perry has a limited role, but he also leaves a mark.
My favourite part of this novella, and also its most challenging aspect, is that it is written in all three grammatical voices – third person for the flashbacks, second person for when Lily is in her guilt-trip zone for her illness, and finally first person for when… this, you will need to discover for yourselves. I admire how smoothly the writing glides across each perspective without making the proceedings convoluted. I am not sure if readers would enjoy these perspective shifts, but I found them very creative and intelligent.
I also love the title because it represents not only the dual health situations of the narrator but also the wedding vows that are possibly being challenged over the course of the narrative. (Though I'm not sure if vows are said with this phrase during a Jewish wedding.)
4.5 stars.

2. Yom Kippur in a Gym
At a Yom Kippur service being held in a gym, five strangers find themselves mulling over their past life choices and their future course of action. One of them is contemplating suicide. One of them has recently found out about her husband’s terminal health issue. One of them is haunted by a professional mistake. One of them cannot bring himself to forgive his father or heal things with his sisters. And one of them is worried about having miscalculated the quantity of cake required for the service. When something unexpected happens towards the end of the service, the result leads to a change in the future plans of the five characters.
As is evident, the problems of the five people are not the same in intensity. But the author approaches each of their situations with equal seriousness, and shifts the narrative baton to each of them in third person so that we see their life from their point of view.
In all honesty, I had no idea what ‘Yom Kippur’ meant. I read up a little about it before beginning this story, and found it an interesting concept – a day to repent for your sins ask for forgiveness. (This reminded me a little of the festival of ‘Paryushan’ celebrated by Jains, which also involves fasting and forgiveness.) At the same time, I loved how the author got one of the characters to say that Yom Kippur should be not just about reflecting on your sins but also for remembering your positive contributions in the last year so that you feel encouraged towards the future. What a lovely thought!
While I liked this story, it didn’t work for me at the same level as the earlier one, partly because the content was a bit too Jewish for my understanding. The author does explain every faith-related idea wherever possible, but to go full-dictionary mode would have obviously broken the spirit of the story. While the first half of the story focusses more on the individual reflections, the second section after the unforeseen event highlights a more unified and cooperative approach. Some incidents in the characters’ reflections weren't to my taste, but this is more a matter of reading preferences than anything problematic in the writing.
4 stars

As you can see, this indie book is definitely worth reading. I enjoyed its uniqueness as much as its content.

Recommended to literary fiction readers who love character-oriented narratives, thought-provoking writing, and a dash of Jewish culture.

4.25 stars, based on the average of my rating for each novella.

My thanks to Guernica Editions and NetGalley for the DRC of “In Sickness and In Health / Yom Kippur in a Gym”. This review is voluntary and contains my honest opinion about the book.

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These are 2 novellas in one book. I have a lot to say about each one and both together. They're a powerhouse duo. Both of these stories are riveting. They pull you right in like you're there with the characters. These are short stories, and little is said about how characters look or other identifying traits, but you learn what you need to know about them through their thoughts and actions.

The first one, In Sickness and in Health, comes across as the author's first-person narrative, and I only realized it was fiction when the narrator says her name is Lily. It's compelling as if it's completely true. Lily is having unusual health issues that doctors can't figure out. She goes through many flashbacks to her younger years as she navigates this challenge, and it's the kind of universal experience that everyone can relate to even if our challenges are different. Sometimes it's exactly the unusual circumstances that bring out the universality of experience. We're feeling what she's feeling because we've been there, even though it was different.

Yom Kippur in a Gym left me stunned. It's the kind of story you put down and need to process. There's so much going on, and at first it was hard to keep track of each narrator's story. But by the middle you know each one intimately. There's just enough said about each narrator that you know what you need to about what makes them tick. And that's part of the point; different things make different people tick, but there are some things we all need, like validation, friendship, and feeling valuable.

The idea of Yom Kippur in a gym is another crucial point. We live our lives in the mundane, but there are those sparks, like once annually on the holiest day of the year, where we can access more. If you've experienced Yom Kippur and will recognize the liturgy, you'll feel it in your bones. However, I have a feeling that even if you haven't, you'll still get it.

I could go on and on, but you need to read it feel it yourself, because the beauty of how hard it hits is its subtlety. It's given over in incredibly beautiful prose, and the vehicle of fiction to give over profound human ideas hits just the right spot.

Can you tell I loved this book? 5 big stars. I would love to read more from this author.

Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for an advanced copy for review.

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