Thursday, 7 April 2016

Review: Craving Flight by Tamsen Parker

3.5 stars

Tzipporah Berger is thirty-seven, once-divorced and newly part of an Orthodox Jewish community. When she mentions to the rabbi's wife that she's looking to remarry, gruff local butcher Elan Klein is put forward as a candidate. He ticks all the right boxes for Tzipporah, and she's hopeful that he might even be able give her what she needs in the bedroom, but BDSM isn't really something you can bring up between "How do you feel about children?" and "How strictly do you keep kosher?" in an Orthodox courtship. Marriage is always a struggle, but it proves even more so for two people who don't know each other very well outside of the marriage bed, and who originally come from two very different worlds. 

Tzipporah was such a vulnerable character, as was Elan towards the end, and basically Craving Flight emotionally gutted me. Some of that was in a good way, but it was also partly in a it-all-ended-too-soon-and-I-haven't-made-peace-with-everything way. I found it to be a very emotional read, and I don't feel like I can rationalise all those feelings very well, so bear with me. 

Elan was a gentle giant - gotta love a gentle giant - and the brusque care he showed Tzippporah was touching. Nonetheless, as a ba'alat teshuva (a secular Jew who has chosen to become Orthodox), she struggles with feelings of inadequacy, which are inadvertently exasperated by Elan and his family. Even though these feelings mostly surround matters of religious observance, it's something I think most women can relate to, as we're socially conditioned to link our worth to our relationships with other people. 

Both Elan and Tzipporah are fully-grown adults who have been married once before, and who each have a life and profession of their own. Tzipporah works as a professor, and has to constantly defend her decision to live a life that people outside the community - including her own family - see as oppressive. When it came to age, gender and religion, I thought that Craving Flight was measured and thoughtful, which is why the quick turnaround to a HEA at the end was such a shock to the system. 

I'll pick up the odd BDSM book occasionally, even if I don't read very many of them, but I've rarely felt so uncomfortable about the sex scenes in a book before. I started to skim over them, because they were just too much for me, both in terms of the kink itself and the characters' interactions. It wasn't that there was a power imbalance between them - they were all clear on that front - but...Tzipporah just became so emotional, and Elan was still so inscrutable. We never get to see his reactions to being a Dom; the focus is always on Tzippoarah, and it was just hurt my heart to see her laid bare emotionally. 

I think I could have coped with it better if I'd had more insight into Elan as a character. We did get to see some emotion from him towards the end, but having been been such an unemotional character up until that point, it came as a bit of a bombshell that I didn't expect, and didn't recover from. 

I don't know why I had such strong reactions to Craving Flight, or whether other readers can expect the same. Nor do I even know whether this review will even be at all useful for someone deciding whether or not to read the book, but here it is anyway. I would recommend giving it a go, especially since it's free on both US and Australian Amazon. 

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