AIR IN THE SHAPE OF A GIRL
AIR IN THE SHAPE OF A GIRL describes a pivotal year in the life of Hedva Bergman, a young ultra-orthodox woman who works in a high tech firm in Jerusalem in order to someday be able to support the yeshiva-learning husband that she has yet to meet. In this gem of a short novel, written in 12 parts that follow the months of the Jewish year, we find that Hedva is the last of her friends from seminary to remain single. Her phone rarely rings. Sometimes she goes out on dates with yeshiva students in the lobby of this or that hotel, but each time she just sits opposite the young man and can’t think of anything to say. One after the other, these potential suitors turn down the opportunity to see her again, saying they’re looking for a woman who is a bit more optimistic, a little more cheerful, more…happy.
The ultra-orthodox world in which Hedva lives is stiff and unyielding. It is a world that dictates a particular set of correct and incorrect behaviors, but it is not the reason for the fog that surrounds her. She is curious and troubled, and so she tries to understand the secular world she encounters in her workplace, but the social activities that take place around her remain cryptic to her, and she feels shut out. When she looks back on her life, she knows that the fog was always there, even before she started dating, and she’s starting to think that it will never lift.
This is not an exposé or a memoir about someone who left an insular religious world. but it is a courageous novel that describes that world with proficiency, gentleness and tact. The pieces and fragments of Hedva’s small life come in a mosaic to form a touching portrait of a young woman who has much more in common with us than we first expect.
Hedva Bergman is a pen name.
Israel, Kinneret, Zmora-Bitan, Dvir
“Hedva Bergman’s Air in the Shape of a Girl is an unusual, almost magnetic read, which contains within it a story of great distress…this is a rare debut novel… and the reading of it is a powerful experience… it offers, in terms of plot at least, no solace. But this absence of solace is well written, thought provoking, heart-wrenching and takes the book to other places that widen cracks inside of us in the way which only true despair can.” – Sarai Shavit, YNET
“This book is both a credible sociological document and a slice of reality… but more than its sociological perspective, this special novel invites an attentive read as a result of its impressive poetic maturity. The book’s tone is even, spare and cool, without unexpected plot twists, metaphors or linguistic tricks. The plot is linear, and the narrative is subdued and faithful to the narrator’s inner truth. But the small rhythm…is part of the book’s charm and readability. This is brave, painful, and honest fiction. I identified with this book, with a fierce anticipation for comfort, with the feeling that this girl is not air but rather a woman in the flesh, close and familiar to me, and in desperate need of love. A rare and emotive talent.” – Yehudit Rotem, Ha’aretz