Monday 4 March 2024

In Sickness and In Health/Yom Kippur in a Gym by Nora Gold - #bookreview


This flipbook comprises two novellas by the talented author, Nora Gold. 

Sickness is a foreign country. You are lost there, you don't know the language, no matter how many times you've visited before. Nothing is familiar. You are alone...

In Sickness and In Health   - Lily had epilepsy as a child, so her most cherished goal has always been to be “normal”. By age 45 she has a “normal” life, including a family, friends, and an artistic career, and no one, not even her husband, knows the truth about her past. But now some cartoons she drew threaten to reveal her childhood secret and destroy her marriage and everything she has worked so hard for. A moving novella about shame, secrets, disabilities, and the limits and power of love.


I am not new to the work of this author. In 2017 I read her book, The Dead Man, which was excellent and you can read my review here. With In Sickness and In Health, she has created an intelligent and mature novella that I was gripped by. 

The main character, Lily, suffers from an undiagnosed illness and the prose begins with her describing her symptoms and the effect that they are having on her life. In addition, we learn that as a child she suffered with epilepsy, but this is something that she has kept secret, even from her husband.

Lily's childhood was devastated by her disability and the way that those around her reacted to it. But more importantly, as an adult, she feels great shame about her past and carries this secret with her.

My heart broke for Lily.  It was an emotional read for me, and I wanted to reach into the text and hug her. She has much to come to terms with in order to ever find a level of self-acceptance.

This novella was a five star read for me. I felt profoundly moved by the author's beautiful writing. Every word is considered and perfectly placed. She writes with intelligence, compassion and sensitivity. She clearly understands Lily very well, and she has created a character who is both compelling and engaging. This is a fantastic novella and Lily is a character who will remain with me.


The gym is filling up with people in their finest, fanciest clothes. No, they have not come to work out in their suits, ties and dresses. They're here for Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur in a Gym  - Five strangers at a Yom Kippur service in a gym are struggling with personal crises. Lucy can’t accept her husband’s Parkinson’s diagnosis. Ira, rejected by his lover, plans to commit suicide. Ezra is tormented by a mistake that ruined his career. Rachel worries about losing her job. Tom contemplates severing contact with his sisters. Then a medical emergency unexpectedly throws these five strangers together, and in one hour all their lives are changed in ways they would never have believed possible.


This was quite a different read to In Sickness and in Health but it was equally as good.

The narrative moves between six different characters at a Yom Kippur service. We briefly hear from the rabbi, and then the focus moves to five of the congregants. Whilst the service progresses, each has their own inner thoughts; it's a time of introspection and soul searching. 

Anyone, who has ever fasted for the twenty-five hours required for Yom Kippur will recognise themselves in one or other of the characters. It was easy to identify with how the minds of the characters could wander before coming back to the more serious aspect of the service. Added to that, an event happens during the service which throws these characters together in a life-changing way.

The author has such a good understanding of people, and this is excellently reflected in her characters. With different chapters being devoted to one or other of them, they became engaging and compelling. My sympathies were raised as they considered their hurts, heartbreaks and disappointments that life has thrown their way.

Ms. Gold writes with insight, and she excellently portrays the immersion and oft vulnerability required in the analysing and self-immersion of our own lives that Yom Kippur demands.

Both of these novellas deserve the rare five stars that I have given them. Both are truly worthy of them. 

ISBN:  978 1771838658

Publisher:  Guernica Editions

Formats: Paperback

No. of Pages:  200


About the Author:

Dr. Nora Gold is the prize-winning author of five books and the editor of the prestigious online literary journal Jewish Fiction, which has readers in 140 countries. 

Gold’s first book, Marrow and Other Stories, won a Vine Canadian Jewish Book Award and was praised by Alice Munro. Her novel Fields of Exile won the inaugural Canadian Jewish Literary Award for best novel and was acclaimed by Ruth Wisse and Irwin Cotler. The Dead Man was honoured with a Canada Council for the Arts translation grant and published in Hebrew. 18: Jewish Stories Translated from 18 Languages, an anthology of translated works, received glowing reviews from Publishers Weekly, Cynthia Ozick, and Dara Horn. Gold’s fifth book, In Sickness and In Health/Yom Kippur in a Gym (two novellas), was published just last week, and is already receiving international praise. 

For more information about Nora Gold, visit

(ARC and media courtesy of the author)

(all opinions are my own)

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