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KxBurns
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Part II (Ch. 5-8)

Six weeks elapse between Part I and the beginning of Part II. How have the lives of the characters changed in that time?

 

How is Audrey confronted with Joel's human frailty throughout this section of the book and how does she react? What resources does she use to cope?

 

How does our understanding of the Litvinoff children develop in Part II? What did you make of Rosa's experience in Monsey, Karla's encounter at the hospital, and Lenny's visit to his biological mother?

 

What are your impressions of Joel's mother, Hannah?
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Librarian
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Re: Part II (Ch. 5-8)


KxBurns wrote:
Six weeks elapse between Part I and the beginning of Part II. How have the lives of the characters changed in that time?

 

 In part II , we learn more about why Audrey has this sharp edge to her character. It was a cover for her shyness when she first got married. But now she appears bitter. I don't think everything turned out the way she wanted in her marriage. We learn Joel was unfaithful from the first few months of their marriage and audrey has rationalized this behavior as common to men. But if Joel has really fathered a child with another woman, Audrey doesn't want that to be true. Audrey judges herself harshly. She doesn't have a maternal instinct for her own daughters because being part of her, how they turn out is a reflection on her. Since Lenny is not biologically hers, he does not reflect her inadequacy and she is then free to love him without conditions. I'm more sympathetic toi Audrey now, knowing how her attitude came about.

 

 

 

 

 

How does our understanding of the Litvinoff children develop in Part II? What did you make of Rosa's experience in Monsey,

 

 Rosa and Karen juxtaposed against each other make for a very humorous situation at the rabbi's house in Monsey. I almost thought Zoe Heller was treading very close to offending anyone of Orthodox Judaism. But then the rabbi is portrayed admirably and beautifully as a person of those beliefs.

 

 Librarian

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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FrankieD
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Re: Part II (Ch. 5-8)

My first impression of this part of the book was that everyone was getting somewhat settled into the whole Joel in a coma thing. You know...the regular visits become more irregular because everyone has things to do...and afterall, Joel isn't going anyplace right now and Audrey won't sign a DNR order so he's more loikely to be around for a while.

I liked the way Audrey demanded more service from the doctor and the hospital...and it showed that she'd been researching Joel's condition and was aware of other treatment options...so she wasn't just sitting around doing nothing. Sometimes doctors need a bit of a push to move forward.

Rosa's trip to Monsey was an interesting one and although it surprised me that she put up with the rules she found, I was glad to see that her mentor rabbi direscted her to a source for some research to help her...although I'm betting the resources he directed her to will be a bit biased...but perhaps she'll figure that out on her own.

All-in-all I'm enjoying the adventure and appreciate that Zoe hasn't given every detail to us...I like to fill in the spaces on my own...sort of a personal interpretation.

                                                                                            FrankieD :smileyhappy:

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IBIS
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Re: Part II (Ch. 5-8) Spunky Hannah

[ Edited ]

KxBurns wrote:

 What are your impressions of Joel's mother, Hannah?


 

 Hannah, Joel's mother, is an amazingly well-drawn character... on her 90th birthday, she's spunky and her mind is sharp as a tack. Zoe Heller created her so realistically, that it's easy to see from whom Joel got his political bent and personal charisma.
 
I loved her take-no-prisoners attitude...  when Audrey patronizingly complimented her when she got the recliner to work, "Good for you, Nana!", she sat straight-backed as an Eqyptian queen and said witheringly... "No need to congratulate me, dear. I am not a half-wit."
 
When Audrey accuses the head of Karla's union of being a Judas, Hannah 's face takes on a pained expression. Hanna, understands the politics behind the union striking a deal... She understands that the labor movement requires solidarity and discipline....
 
Audrey is unwilling to see  beyond her own a priori convictions... she's made up her mind. When Audrey argues, Hannah "smiled a private smile and began to hum to herself."
 
Hannah choosing not to get into a harangue with Audrey is very revealing. I suspect that she's wisely picked her battles with Audrey the last 40 years .
 
IBIS 
Message Edited by IBIS on 10-27-2008 10:15 PM
IBIS

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debbook
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Re: Part II (Ch. 5-8)

You can tell in this part that Audrey is coming a little undone. I don't think she expected that Joel wouldn't have recovered.

 

I am curious about Berenice. Did she need the support for her child that badly or is she taking advantage of the fact that she can tell Audrey and not upset Joel. I didn't know what to think of her. I felt a little sorry for Audrey at this point. What a time to learn something like that. Of course, she is immediately in denial.

 

I liked reading about Rosa's trip to Monsey. What a completely different world for her. I wonder why she chose to explore Judiasm in one of the more stricter sects. Is it just in her nature to pick the most extreme of something?

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becky_quilts
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Re: Part II (Ch. 5-8)

Audrey is in total denial.  I have to disagree with Frankie.  I don't think she is pushing the doctors for better alternatives, I think she is going on as if Joel will be fine.  Their first day in the hospital she acted as if Joel would wake up any minute.  Now she has come to realize that it is more serious but she is still not facing the reality of the situation.  Joel will never be anything but a vegetable kept alive by machines.

 

I am really shocked at the degree of self loathing in Karla.  How does that woman get out of bed in the morning?  She is the character I most sympathize with but it is so painful to listen to her thoughts.  I can see a little of Audrey in her in the way she always says the opposite of how she's feeling. 

 

I've noticed that we never see anything from Lenny's perspective.  Curious.

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Carmenere_lady
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Re: Part II (Ch. 5-8)

I didn't see the self loathing in Karla but I do see a very passive person.  She is so unlike Rosa and her parents who seem to go to the extreme in the choice of there respective orthodoxes, if there even is such a word.  With Karla I hear the old adage "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything".  She wants to please everyone and in doing so, I think, she looses sight of what she wants.  So between the three of them there is no middle of the road.  No moderation.  Perhaps we will see something different from Lenny.

 

By the way, I was stunned when I figured out that Lenny is in his mid 30's!  He seems to be so babied by his parents that I thought he was a teenager.  Were they enablers to his lack of motivation?


becky_quilts wrote:

I am really shocked at the degree of self loathing in Karla.  How does that woman get out of bed in the morning?  She is the character I most sympathize with but it is so painful to listen to her thoughts.  I can see a little of Audrey in her in the way she always says the opposite of how she's feeling. 

 


 

Lynda

"I think of literature.....as a vast country to the far borders of which I am journeying but will never reach."
The Uncommon Reader


"You've been running around naked in the stacks again, haven't you?"
"Um, maybe."
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Bonnie824
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Re: Part II (Ch. 5-8)


becky_quilts wrote:

Audrey is in total denial.  I have to disagree with Frankie.  I don't think she is pushing the doctors for better alternatives, I think she is going on as if Joel will be fine.  Their first day in the hospital she acted as if Joel would wake up any minute.  Now she has come to realize that it is more serious but she is still not facing the reality of the situation.  Joel will never be anything but a vegetable kept alive by machines.

 

I am really shocked at the degree of self loathing in Karla.  How does that woman get out of bed in the morning?  She is the character I most sympathize with but it is so painful to listen to her thoughts.  I can see a little of Audrey in her in the way she always says the opposite of how she's feeling. 

 

I've noticed that we never see anything from Lenny's perspective.  Curious.


 

I agree Becky. If Audrey is as intelligent as she thinks (and is portrayed) and had researched Joel's condition enough to make demands and complaints, she would have realized by now how little hope there actually is.

I also have limited patience with "victim" characters who won't take up for themselves unless they change pretty quickly in books.

Bonnie

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lcnh1
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Re: Part II (Ch. 5-8)


Bonnie824 wrote:

becky_quilts wrote:

Audrey is in total denial.  I have to disagree with Frankie.  I don't think she is pushing the doctors for better alternatives, I think she is going on as if Joel will be fine.  Their first day in the hospital she acted as if Joel would wake up any minute.  Now she has come to realize that it is more serious but she is still not facing the reality of the situation.  Joel will never be anything but a vegetable kept alive by machines.

 

I am really shocked at the degree of self loathing in Karla.  How does that woman get out of bed in the morning?  She is the character I most sympathize with but it is so painful to listen to her thoughts.  I can see a little of Audrey in her in the way she always says the opposite of how she's feeling. 

 

I've noticed that we never see anything from Lenny's perspective.  Curious.


 

I agree Becky. If Audrey is as intelligent as she thinks (and is portrayed) and had researched Joel's condition enough to make demands and complaints, she would have realized by now how little hope there actually is.

I also have limited patience with "victim" characters who won't take up for themselves unless they change pretty quickly in books.

Bonnie


 

I agree also.  When I first read this I thought she was in denial.  After reading the further chapters of this section, I think Audrey is not happy with her life.  She sees herself as Joel's wife and partner despite all of the affairs that he has had.  Joel is all that she has and it appears that she has done everything she can to maintain that.  She is the one that has had his children and she is the one that will always be there.  She has become that activist that she thinks Joel wants her to be at the expense of developing her own beliefs.  The arrival of Berenice (and the fact that Joel had another family), shatters that illusion and her belief in what their relationship really was.
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Re: Part II (Ch. 5-8)


debbook wrote:

I liked reading about Rosa's trip to Monsey. What a completely different world for her. I wonder why she chose to explore Judiasm in one of the more stricter sects. Is it just in her nature to pick the most extreme of something?


I think that it is quite common for someone who comes from a background of no religion to be intrigued by the customs of the most fervent.  Going to a reform or even conservative synagogue would probably not have the same draw as the orthodox one since many members of reform or cons. are secular like her.  The orthodox way is very different and probably more spiritual

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kiakar
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Re: Part II (Ch. 5-8)

On Part 11 ch.5-8 we find out some disturbing facts about Lenny. He is a total slob and a helpless leech that thoroughly enjoys living off of his parents. Usually that comes from not setting limits when they are growing up and spoiling or protecting them when they do wrong. They began to feel the world belongs to them. And absolutely they do not feel loved whatsoever by anyone. They are reaching out for fulfillment but really never get it, not unless some one magically wakes up and smells the roses and does something about him.
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thewanderingjew
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Re: Part II (Ch. 5-8)

Audrey finds herself without political purpose after Joel's stroke. Always carrying an angry persona before, in her daily battles, she simply transfers her anger to all those she comes in contact with about Joel and every other facet of her life. I think her anger becomes her purpose. I think she hides behind her rudeness and brashness. She appears to resent any and all authority, no matter where it comes from, business associates, friends and family, doctors, it doesn't matter. Yet, she assumes that she is the authority on everything.
How unhappy she must have been her entire married life, carrying her disappointment with Joel's faithlessness under the radar, so to speak, and treating it as if it were the norm. Having it come full circle to smack her in the face was a lot more than she could stand. I thought it was interesting that she smashed all the glassware. The breaking of the glass is an integral part of the Jewish marriage ceremony. 
"This custom, sheva brachos, dates back to Talmudic times, and symbolizes the idea of our keeping Jerusalem and Israel in our minds even at times of our joy. Just as the Temple in Jerusalem is destroyed, so we break a utensil to show our identification with the sorrow of Jewish exile. The verse, "If I forget thee O' Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its cunning: If I do not raise thee over my own joy, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth", is sometimes recited at this point. With the breaking of the glass the band plays, and the guests usually break out into dancing and cries of "Mazaltov! Mazaltov!" (Some say, tongue in cheek, that this moment symbolizes the last time the groom gets to "put his foot down")"
Was Audrey symbolically smashing the glasses to symbolize his infidelity which showed that he didn't honor his marriage vows, that he forgot her and destroyed  "the temple" of their  marriage? Did he not forget to raise her over his own joy when he cheated for his own pleasure without regard for the fact that he was hurting her, his Jerusalem. And is his stroke a symbol of his punishment? ...Or am I reading too much into this? It is just a thought.
twj

 

KxBurns wrote:
edited by twj...

How is Audrey confronted with Joel's human frailty throughout this section of the book and how does she react? What resources does she use to cope?

 

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Carmenere_lady
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Re: Part II (Ch. 5-8)

I like your post twj.  The association you made with the glasses is very insightful.

 I loved this scene in which Audrey takes her frustrations out on the glassware.  As this scene

 closes part II - I felt that it also closed a chapter in Audrey's life.  Perhaps it signals a change in Audrey that we will begin to see in Part III.  In addition I felt that this was a very liberating moment for her actually freeing herself of years of infidelity and to a life that she may not have been all that receptive.


thewanderingjew wrote:

Audrey finds herself without political purpose after Joel's stroke. Always carrying an angry persona before, in her daily battles, she simply transfers her anger to all those she comes in contact with about Joel and every other facet of her life. I think her anger becomes her purpose. I think she hides behind her rudeness and brashness. She appears to resent any and all authority, no matter where it comes from, business associates, friends and family, doctors, it doesn't matter. Yet, she assumes that she is the authority on everything.
How unhappy she must have been her entire married life, carrying her disappointment with Joel's faithlessness under the radar, so to speak, and treating it as if it were the norm. Having it come full circle to smack her in the face was a lot more than she could stand. I thought it was interesting that she smashed all the glassware. The breaking of the glass is an integral part of the Jewish marriage ceremony. 
"This custom, sheva brachos, dates back to Talmudic times, and symbolizes the idea of our keeping Jerusalem and Israel in our minds even at times of our joy. Just as the Temple in Jerusalem is destroyed, so we break a utensil to show our identification with the sorrow of Jewish exile. The verse, "If I forget thee O' Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its cunning: If I do not raise thee over my own joy, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth", is sometimes recited at this point. With the breaking of the glass the band plays, and the guests usually break out into dancing and cries of "Mazaltov! Mazaltov!" (Some say, tongue in cheek, that this moment symbolizes the last time the groom gets to "put his foot down")"
Was Audrey symbolically smashing the glasses to symbolize his infidelity which showed that he didn't honor his marriage vows, that he forgot her and destroyed  "the temple" of their  marriage? Did he not forget to raise her over his own joy when he cheated for his own pleasure without regard for the fact that he was hurting her, his Jerusalem. And is his stroke a symbol of his punishment? ...Or am I reading too much into this? It is just a thought.
twj

 

KxBurns wrote:
edited by twj...

How is Audrey confronted with Joel's human frailty throughout this section of the book and how does she react? What resources does she use to cope?

 


 

Lynda

"I think of literature.....as a vast country to the far borders of which I am journeying but will never reach."
The Uncommon Reader


"You've been running around naked in the stacks again, haven't you?"
"Um, maybe."
The Time Traveler's Wife

It is with books as with men; a very small number play a great part.
Voltaire
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dhaupt
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Re: Part II (Ch. 5-8)

I am going to first talk about Hannah, I just loved her and her reaction when she found out where Rosa was going was priceless and shows me just where Joel got his beliefs in the first place. I also like the reverence she gets from all the family.

 

Audrey is crude and cruel as ever. My empathy toward her does increase in this section as I see that Joel's absence in her life is causing her to be off center. I thought the part where she relives Karla's birth is touching and I don't too much mind her rudeness there. She still thinks that Joel will recover at this point. I especially liked the breakage scene. And I have to put in here that at this time I really dislike Berenice, I don't care who she was to him, but to insist to Audrey right now during Joel's illness that they get together and talk about "their children" and financial issues I think that was just cruel.

 

Karla's encounter with Nicholas or the monster as he calls himself was disturbing but probably something that goes on in mental wards all the time. But when I met Khaled I saw her soul mate and wondered what would come of their chance meeting. It's obvious to me how Mike's obsession with first getting pregnant and now adoption is really eating at Karla. I can see she wants children but I can see a major problem here between the two of them.

 

Rosa's trip to Monsey was the highlight of the book for me as far as humor. I loved how the trip she imagined became the trip in reality and how the two were so different, but I think that's true of all of us expecting more of a situation than it becomes. Not being of the Jewish faith it did enlighten me a little. 

 

Lenny is such an enigma to me, I just can't figure him out yet. I don't know if he wants to be a mooch and a lowlife and an all around useless human being or if he's a prisoner of circumstance. I think he truly loves Audrey and Joel in his own self absorbed way. I thought the visit to his mother was depressing. 

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Guerneymember12
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Re: Part II (Ch. 5-8)

I can't believe that tough Audrey would know about these affairs and allow them to happen.  Now look where they've gotten her.  also Audrey sees a woman with Dreadlocks walking around her stairs and she thinks that something is wrong when the woman says that she needs to talk to her, she even threatens to call 911.  would she have reacted the same way if the woman did not react the same way - did anyone sells think Audrey was walking her talk??

 

I think it was great of Rosa to stick it out in Monsey.  I would have used the excuse about her father.  Some people, especially from the South don't realize how different orthodox Judaism is even from Reform or conservative Judaism. 

 

I can't wait to see what happens to Karen and her new friend.  she can sit on the ground and eat what she wants.  She is so kind hearted.  that's what she deserves.  The fist words out of her mouth after the patient attacked her were "Don't hurt him"

 

I'm afraid Lenny may be back on drugs.  1.  you don't do a little now and then.  2.  Susan would be able to look at him more objectively and she knows the signs  3   Audrey loves him like a true mom and she would not want him to be on drugs and so she wouldn't see it.  she would see it as him looking bad because Joel is in the hospital and that may have been the straw.

 

Joel's mom just appeared to be another Joel to me.  We've only seen a little of her but to me I kept saying, Oh that's why Joel does that 

 

 

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CDover1978
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Re: Part II (Ch. 5-8)

Six weeks elapse between Part I and the beginning of Part II. How have the lives of the characters changed in that time?  

 

Everyone in the family seems to have gone back to their old routines.  Audrey still visits Joel every day, but Rosa is back to devoting more time toward her religious identity, Karla is back to her job as a social worker and Lenny is, well, Lenny…  He’s back to taking advantage of his mother’s pocketbook, than he is of using his “talents” to land a job. ·        

How is Audrey confronted with Joel's human frailty throughout this section of the book and how does she react? What resources does she use to cope? 

 

Audrey received a huge dose of reality -- that Joel is not Superman and that even the tough get hurt.  Audrey momentarily drops her shield and lets the humane side of her come out as she questioned the treatment that Joel was receiving and whether or not her was receiving every possible option for recovery.  When told that he was and that some of the more “experimental theories” found online were not necessarily practical for Joel’s situation, especially considering his age. ·        

 How does our understanding of the Litvinoff children develop in Part II? What did you make of Rosa's experience in Monsey, Karla's encounter at the hospital, and Lenny's visit to his biological mother?

 

Part II goes more in-depth with letting us understand the thinking of the Litvinoff children.  They were raised in the same household, under the same roof, but has grown to be so different from one another…. so different from their parents. 

Rosa’s experience in Monsey is an interesting one.  She’s enjoying the opportunity to dive more into the Jewish religion while at the same time questioning everything she is learning to what she was taught by her parents.  During her discussion with the Rabbi, you could feel how torn she was between her upbringing and the beliefs she’s developed from it and the history behind her new religion.  She’s not sure which is right and if giving up her Marxist ideas are completely wrong. Karla’s encounter at the hospital was an odd one. 

Karla is a people-person, but yet when approached by others, she becomes extremely uncomfortable and has trouble communicating.  The physical attack that she experienced by Nicholas caused her to question the authenticity of people.  When Khaled assisted her and tried to befriend her, she wanted to do nothing more than close the door on his friendliness.  She’s a very insecure person that has endured much intentional and unintentional verbal “abuse” in life and does not know how she should be living her own life… for herself or for everyone else. 

Lenny has his own uphill battle.  I think deep down he resents his mother for leaving him as a child to be raised by someone else.  Even though he couldn’t have asked for a better mother than Audrey, Lenny still regrets not having his own mother available to him any time he needs her. 

 

What are your impressions of Joel's mother, Hannah?

 

I think Hannah is a hoot.  She’s a very opinionated woman that reminds me so much of my great-grandmother that was born in 1898 and lived a full life.  She understands the ups and downs of life.  She’s very strong in her, I’m not sure if I would say “anti-Jewish” belief, but they are definitely her beliefs based on the “freedom” her mother felt as they docked at Ellis Island.  She is feeling the same pain that many women before her have felt when it comes to the possibility of outliving your own child.

Courtney
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maude40
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Re: Part II (Ch. 5-8)

I think it's interesting on page 148 how Audrey says she's chosen to love Lenny, even though he's given them no end of trouble. However she has to love Karla and Rosa because they are her biological children. She seems to have never ending patience with Lenny but none for her daughters. Yvonne
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libralady
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Re: Part II (Ch. 5-8)


becky_quilts wrote:

Audrey is in total denial.  I have to disagree with Frankie.  I don't think she is pushing the doctors for better alternatives, I think she is going on as if Joel will be fine.  Their first day in the hospital she acted as if Joel would wake up any minute.  Now she has come to realize that it is more serious but she is still not facing the reality of the situation.  Joel will never be anything but a vegetable kept alive by machines.

 

 

I agree with Becky, Audrey is in denial.  I think she feels that Dr. Krauss is responsible for Joel's lack of progress and that he has given up on him.  She appears to be holding on desparately to what Dr. Sussman about "the sky's the limit."  I think her denial is very evident when she gets so upset with Dr. Krauss when he talked about the DNR order. 

 

"Sow today what you want to reap tomorrow"
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fordmg
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Re: Part II (Ch. 5-8)

I want to comment on the characters from part II before I read everyone else's comments.

First - there is the issue of Rosa coming into her Jewishness.  Not just learining about her "people" but going to the extreme orthodox.  What ever she does she seems to do in extreme. ie:  going to Cuba to experience socialism.  Rosa is more like Audr than she wants to admit.  It also gives her a more conservative way to be a rebel.

Audrey - is not settling into a routine and accepting Joel's stroke.  She realizes what Joel really meant to her.  While she seemed to live a life with no restrictions, recriminations, it is really like she is just visiting her life.  Her lack of regard for others is finally getting old and even Audrey is not sure why she is this way.

Karla - Exact opposite of Audrey.  She never lived her own life.  Others have defined who/what she is and then she adjusts to those expectations.  She is emotionally still a child.  Bazaar relationship with Khaled.  She can't evern assert herself with a stranger.

Lenny - continuous trips to meet his birth mother even after adoption?  I don't really get it, except maybe Augrey and Joel are trying to show how open they are in all relationships.  Lenny's relationship with Audrey is "over the top".  Not a real mother - child relationship.  Susan's behavior is typical of a long term incarceration.  All though she seems to resent Audrey for taking in her boy - even though she has no way of taking care of him.  Audrey doesn't get it that Lenny is extremely maliputative.  I feel he will never grow up.  Audrey actually sees only what she wants in Lenny.  She feels that Lenny needs to see his birth mohter, but is somehouw still jeolous of her. 

Finally - Audrey is coming to the realization that Joel lead a double life.  The clues were there, she just didn't want to see them.  We see evidence of Audrey living in her own world and not acknowledging or respecting other around her.  She doesn't really understand Joel - Go back to the prolog when she just picked up and got married without even knowing him.

MG

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lcnh1
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Re: Part II (Ch. 5-8)

The sisters appear to be opposites of each other - one doing what is expected and the other doing what she wants.  Karla is always trying to please someone else rather than doing what she wants.  She wanted to go to law school but her parents did not think she had the ability, therefore she became a social worker.  Her husband wants deperately to have children and has thrown himself into all aspects of that - monitoring what Karla eats, when she tests herself, etc.  Karla appears to not be that interested in having a child and is only doing this because Mike wants to.  She seems to expect to be treated a certain way, especially by Audrey who is always on Karla for her weight.  Khaled may be the first person in a long time who treats Karla just as who she is and not who he expects her to be.  He doesn't have any preconceived notions of how she should behave.

 

Rosa on the other hand seems to jump from one extreme to the other.  She went to Cuba and became disillusioned with what she found when it did not match her expectations.  Now she has jumped into studing Judaism and her heritage to the dismay of Audrey and her family.  She does what suits her at the time.