Review: The Covered Wife by Lisa Emanuel

In “The Covered Wife” Lisa Emanuel explores the harm we can do — to ourselves, and to others — in our desire for belonging and acceptance.

It follows Sarah, an ambitious twenty-nine-year-old mid-level lawyer at a top-tier firm in Sydney. She is starting to feel listless, like she’s merely treading water. She has become the team workhorse, the administrator, whose work is essential but so often goes unnoticed. She’s getting tired of it.

Sarah is Jewish, but religion is not a defining factor of her existence; more of an addendum, maybe. Which is more than you can say for her romantic life — a total non-starter; somewhat pulverised by a career that demands almost every waking hour. But also, she simply hasn’t found that person who might warrant overriding, or reducing, her professional commitments. That is, until she meets Daniel.

Sarah falls for Daniel — hard. To the extent she obliges him a visit to the progressive Bondi beachside synagogue he attends every weekend, led by the devilishly charismatic Rabbi Menachem Lev and his wife Chani. As Sarah and Daniel commence married life together, she is drawn into their fold, consequently rewriting the fabric of her life. But as time passes, the sense of community and heightened level of spiritual awareness gives way to something darker; something oppressive, maybe even dangerous. Is it too late for Sarah to escape? And even if she can, having sacrificed everything to establish herself as part of this community, what’s left for her beyond it?

Emanuel’s debut takes a paint-by-numbers conceit and fleshes it out into an intelligent, complex, challenging and utterly compelling novel, flavoured with local colour. It’s an examination of the boundaries of love and loyalty, and the wrong turns made in the quest for human connection, which plumbs the emotional core of its protagonist with the adroitness of a veteran.

ISBN: 9780648748915
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 364
Available: 1st June 2021