What does it mean to be Jewish in the modern world? This is a question I found myself asking while reading Melanie Conroy-Goldman’s debut novel, The Likely World (Red Hen Press, $18.95), which I discovered in an online Jewish writers’ group last fall. The book, which deals with familiar themes about Jewish identity while also maintaining a compelling story, is grittier than most Jewish novels (crime and drugs abound, for example, and the plot leans more mystery than literary); it also deals with Jewish topics that are less trodden, since the focus is only obliquely on the characters’ Judaism and the most “Jewish” thing that happens is that they all meet at Jewish camp. The culture of Judaism fades into the background, which is sort of unusual in itself, and worthy of discussion.
Conroy-Goldman’s novel also delves into other fascinating topics, including attraction, addiction, motherhood, memory, and more. Driven by its strong protagonist Mellie, a single mother hooked on the drug “cloud,” The Likely World is an extremely compelling first book, and I was pleased to discuss it in depth with the author.