Faye Kellerman’s Orthodox Characters Bring Judaism to the Masses

When best-selling mystery writer Faye Kellerman wrote her first book in 1986, she wasn’t sure how it was going to be received.

Added to the uncertainty of finding a publisher that all new authors face, Faye faced an even greater obstacle: her book was profoundly Jewish, with an Orthodox woman named Rina as its main character.

“Write what you know,” Faye recalls thinking at the time, in an Aish.com exclusive interview. “I love my religion,” Faye explains, “and I thought that maybe other people would be interested in Orthodox Jewish faith, just like I’m interested in other cultures.”

At the time, Faye was raising her young family in Los Angeles and working as a dentist. She and her husband Jonathan (now an acclaimed mystery writer as well) were growing in their Jewish observance. They were active in their synagogue, celebrated Shabbat each week, and kept kosher. There was so much joy and happiness in their observant Jewish lifestyle, Faye wanted to convey that beauty in her work.

“You can write about Jewish characters and they can be really fascinating.”

There was little precedent for the type of characters she wished to create. Faye found many 20th century Jewish-themed novels to be dark; their depressing worldviews had little to do with the joyous Jewish community Faye and Jonathan experienced in Los Angeles. The author Chaim Potok was the only writer she’d read who she felt managed to convey the joy integral in Jewish religious life. “Potok’s 1967 novel The Chosen was a huge influence on me,” Faye says. “It helped me realize that you can write about Jewish characters and they can be really fascinating.”

Faye’s character Rina was compelling from page one in Faye’s debut novel The Ritual Bath. A recent widow who’s an Orthodox Jew, Rina assists a Los Angeles detective investigate a murder carried out near a mikveh, a Jewish ritual bath. Rina’s love of Judaism is palpable: she pauses to make blessings over her food before…

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