In 1987, J.S. Margot was a mini-skirted university student, and she took a job as a tutor to a family with four children. There would be nothing remarkable about that story, except that the Schneider family were Orthodox Jews, and their household was a world entirely unfamiliar to her.
Margot’s memoir, Mazel Tov, traces the strange nature of their relationship, right through to the present day. Though Margot has previously written five novels, this is her first book of non-fiction, and the first to be translated into English. The translation was undertaken by Jane Hedley-Prôle, and the fine folks at Pushkin Press were kind enough to send me a copy for review.
I was expecting a cutesy strange bedfellows read, full of funny anecdotes about culture clash and sweet moments of revelation. Mazel Tov is nothing like that.
It’s a reserved, but provocative, account of family and religion, and also language, politics, marriage, history, and oppression. The children of the Schneider family are curious, but pious, and in many ways end up teaching Margot more than she teaches them.