Your Preview Verdict: The Covered Wife by Lisa Emanuel

Your Preview Verdict: The Covered Wife by Lisa Emanuel

Sarah is a smart, young lawyer working endless office hours when she falls head over heels for Daniel – handsome, passionate and part of the kind of large, chaotically loving family Sarah longed for as the only child of a single mother.

When Daniel introduces her to a charismatic young couple, Rabbi Menachem Lev and his wife, Chani, despite herself, Sarah is drawn in by their progressive beachside synagogue. By the time the couple move to the Jamison Valley, where Menachem and Chani have established a community of believers, Sarah can’t imagine life without the friendship, purpose and love she’s discovered.

Four years on, youthful fervour has given way to something darker. A series of terrifying truths emerges that tear Sarah’s world apart, and cause her to question everything – her faith, her marriage, and her future.

Read some great reviews from our Preview readers here:

The Covered Wife is such a gripping story! Sarah, a young professional, lives and works in Sydney. She feels trapped in her monotonous, lonely life with only her mother and a handful of co-workers for company. While attending after-work drinks with her colleagues Sarah happens to meet a charming man named Daniel. Daniel introduces Sarah to a Jewish community lead by the charismatic Rabbi Menachem and his beautiful young wife, Chani. Sarah is a non-practising Jew but is drawn to The House community where she feels a sense of belonging but, soon the Rabbi has bigger and better plans for his followers. Lisa Emanuel’s debut book gave me a sense of unease throughout and was nothing like I had read before. Thanks to Better Reading for my ARC. Sharah, QLD, 5 Stars

I really enjoyed this book from beginning to end. As a person who has grown up with basic freedoms in life, it is hard to imagine a person would change their life in such an extreme way, particularly from a female perspective. This book challenged my thoughts in understanding why a person would sacrifice their individual freedoms to live as a collective. Sarah is an intelligent woman, but her loneliness, insecurities of not belonging to the mainstream community, growing up smothered by her single mother and lack of purpose in life creates a void in her life. Sarah falls in love with Daniel who introduces her to a new religious Jewish community where Sarah is embraced, supported and valued by other members. When events do not go smoothly in this strict community, Sarah questions the rules and is punished for disobedience. Sarah now has to weigh up her love for Daniel, love for her child and her faith. Can Sarah accept these changes in her life and can this life be sustained? Meaghan, ACT, 5 Stars

The Covered Wife by Lisa Emanuel is a brave and compelling debut novel that I couldn’t put down. The subject of religion is deeply personal — one that can incite heated debate as easily as feelings of faith, love and gratitude. Choosing Judaism as a vehicle for a story involving repressive acts against women, a cult, and the subtle ways an intelligent but vulnerable woman can be slowly manipulated is definitely flirting with danger. I felt so much compassion for Sarah, an only child who falls deeply in love and must make impossible choices and heartbreaking sacrifices as a result. My heart ached for her to be strong even as I felt angry and frustrated by her actions. I was as seduced by this slow-burning story as Sarah was by her synagogue’s enigmatic leaders. In this intelligent, dark and intense novel, Emanuel has tackled some serious and sensitive issues with grace and honesty. It’s a story that will invoke strong emotions and leave you with a sucker-punched heart at times, but ultimately, it’s worth the journey. This is a book that needs to be unpacked and begs for a lively discussion — it would make an excellent book club choice. Linda, QLD, 5 Stars

Beautiful Australian story about a young lawyer, Sarah, who falls in love. Initially, the story is set in Bondi and then the Jamison Valley. Sarah is introduced to a Rabbi and she is drawn to the synagogue and the community. After moving to the Jamison Valley dark secrets emerge from the community which causes her to question her faith and her life. Heather, NSW, 5 Stars

The Covered Wife was a great read. Very insightful into a ‘cult’ like life that many are oblivious to. Characters were very next-door neighbour style which helped with relatability. The story was well written and well-formed. Definitely kept me hooked from start to finish! Loved it. Bec, TAS, 5 Stars

How far would you go for love? At which point do you decide enough is enough? I loved this book, even as it kept moving forward and getting darker with each chapter. Sarah is a young lawyer with a promising future who meets Daniel, a barrister. They fall in love and Sarah feels as though she has finally found her home. She moves happily into Daniel’s world and meets his Rabbi and his wife, and even though she feels uneasy with some aspects of Daniel’s religious devotion, she knows that their love is all that matters. Set in the corporate world of Sydney and the foothills of the Blue Mountains, this is about a woman who gives up everything for the man she loves. The story draws you in and leaves you asking if love is enough. Dariel, WA, 5 Stars

The Covered Wife is the debut novel of Lisa Emanuel. It was a thoroughly engrossing read which kept me turning the page to find out more. I love reading books about different cultures and this fits that bill as Daniel and Sarah engulf themselves in their Jewish religion. It opens thinking to the deeper questions of religion, community, vulnerability and devotion and is it worth the price. Highly recommended and thanks to Better Reading for the opportunity to review this book. I look forward to reading more from Lisa. Sally, NSW, 5 Stars

The Covered Wife was an insight into the slow unravelling of an insecure professional young woman’s life. Craving the big noisy family she never had, she is lured into marriage and a radical religious community that slowly strips away all her freedoms and had her questioning everything. At times harrowing and predictably tragic. A great insight into cult mentality! Lina, VIC, 5 Stars

Don’t we all just want to meet that perfect person? Someone with a reputable job, a large and loving family and someone who just adores us? Sarah meets her ‘perfect man’, Daniel early in the novel after growing up with her non-practising Jewish mother. She has always yearned for the love and support of a large Jewish family, something she has witnessed her whole life from afar. Sarah also has a high-demand job as a lawyer after studying for years. When Daniel introduces her to The House, she is seemingly shocked at how he has not been openly honest about just how serious he is about his Judaism. She decides that her love for him is far more important than her own lack of belief, and moves forward, into a whole new world, a whole new life of a Jewish cult. So far removed from the way I live my life, Sarah was continually frustrating me. As a modern, intelligent woman, surely the female protagonist would know better than to choose the ‘love’ of a man over her own freedom and her own choices? I learnt a lot about Judaism and the many traditions associated with this way of life. A great book! Alison, VIC, 5 Stars

The Covered Wife was an incredibly engaging page-turner, filled with suspension that kept you guessing what was going to happen next right until the very end. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and seriously hope that there is going to be a sequel as I feel Sarah’s (the protagonist) story hasn’t finished yet. Even though this story doesn’t finish on a cliffhanger it did finish leaving the reader begging for more. Lisa, please don’t leave us hanging we need to know more. Meg, SA, 5 Stars

The Covered Wife is the story of Sarah, a young, educated, professional woman who has grown up with a single mother and no extended family. She longs for so much more and, when she finds it, ends up going down a path that she increasingly questions. This book is about the power of a cult and how hard it is to act when so much can be lost. It is a fabulous read and challenged my beliefs and values. Kerry, WA, 5 Stars

I found The Covered Wife a fascinating book with an original plot. It showed how Menachem with his religious obsessions could influence and manipulate people, gradually taking control of their lives. I really felt for Sarah and could sense the underlying tension on every page. So many secrets and contradictions. Will there be a sequel? I hope so. Loren, NSW, 5 Stars

Sarah is a smart educated woman, works with a law firm, until she is blinded by her love for Daniel. Daniel loves to congregate with a Jewish community lead by Rabbi Menachem and his wife, Chani. How deep do you take religion into your life? Is it for all or nothing? Will Sarah and Daniel cope with their new way of life as the community guided them to do? It’s an interesting thought-provoking story from Lisa Emanuel. This reminds me of a mini-series I watched on Netflix, Unorthodox. I’m lucky I have a chance to get this ARC of this book from Better Reading Preview. This book should be published by June 2021 and is not to be missed on your TBR. Vivi, NSW, 5 Stars

I found this book fascinating. It shows how even someone very intelligent can be coerced into joining a cult, which is what the Synagogue is, behind its friendly facade. This story kept me enthralled to the last page. Bridget, VIC, 5 Stars

This is a debut novel by Sydney author Lisa Emanuel, and let me tell you, after reading The Covered Wife, I can’t wait to read more from her. Thought-provoking and compelling, it kept me awake too late, captured in the story. There is the undertone of a thriller, but bigger questions are raised about loneliness in today’s world, the subtle dangers of power and what vulnerability can look like. I finished it and I wanted more. Tess, TAS, 5 Stars

The Covered Wife goes in unconventional directions, challenging readers in ways they might not expect. I found it moving and frightening, and at the last, deeply sad. Emanuel shows how what’s reasonable can be turned into something dangerous in gradual, almost unnoticeable steps. We understand very well how Sarah gets sucked in. It’s also about the oppression of women, for much of the burden of restrictions and punishments falls on them. Many are restrictions that have been placed on women throughout history, and Emanuel wants us to consider if we’ve really moved on. This is a novel that it’s hard to say I’ve enjoyed, as that sounds like I’m not treating the subject matter with the seriousness it deserves. This is a well-written novel that flows well and never feels didactic. The characterisation is strong; in particular, readers will empathise with Sarah and understand her feelings, decisions and actions. This is a strong and powerful novel that should make you pause and think. On that level, I enjoyed it immensely. And it goes in a direction I didn’t expect; in particular, the ending was so unexpected as to be disconcerting. Yet that’s a strength; it’s also very realistic. Lorraine, ACT, 5 Stars

I really enjoyed this book. It gave me so much information on the Jewish religion and way of life. Sarah loves Daniel and agrees to become more involved with the rituals. There is a quote in the book: “The right religion and race is more important than being happy”. Daniel moves them to a commune in the Blue Mountains and commences to abide by the strict adherence to Jewish law. Sarah is confused by this and wonders if she should be submissive to a higher power. Her happiness is in question. Vivien, ACT, 5 Stars

I knew I would like this book from the first pages. The author has the ability through her writing to have us feel as though we are actually there with her as she relays her tale. I schooled in the Eastern Suburbs where part of the book is set and it was like a trip home. The story is set out in a logical manner with characters we can relate to. When they are in strife you want to almost reach out to them and pull them to safety. I felt myself drawn to Sarah and wanting to encourage her on. They say there can be two bad things in life; not getting what you desire and getting it. This book shows that the premise can be a much broader one than that. Is the feeling of belonging ever really worth what we go through to attain it? A fantastic book which I would recommend to anyone interested in the intricacies of other religions and how they stack up in today’s world. Five stars from me… A thoroughly enjoyable ride, one which also gives self-reflection. Sharon, NSW, 5 Stars

I just loved The Covered Wife. From the opening pages, to when I closed the book, I was drawn to this story. Every time I put the book down, I literally couldn’t wait to open it again and get back to the story of Sarah. Lisa Emanuel captures perfectly the longing to belong to something far greater and allows the reader to see through the main character’s, Sarah’s, eyes to glimpse the excitement of a new relationship and then the inevitable pleasing of the other person, casting aside all doubts, in that effort to be a part of a world that appears perfect. Perhaps being an only child is the reason Sarah is pulled so quickly into her new life – full of new friends, food and experiences. Or maybe she lacks self-confidence? This novel fully explores what it means to be lonely and desperately wanting to be accepted, and the consequences of not acting on your gut instincts. No one should miss this page-turner! Nicole, QLD, 5 Stars

FINNNNNNALLLLYYYYYY! A book to bring me out of my reading slump! This brilliant debut novel by Sydney author Lisa Emanuel is just the ticket to a great reading experience! I was sucked right into Sarah’s world as she joins a progressive Jewish synagogue and the plot slowly thickens! The plot pace is enough to have me reading “just one more” chapter each night before bed. Worthy of 5 stars and definitely worth the read! Stacey, WA, 5 Stars

Loved this book. The decisions we have to make in love. Is religion a cult? Do you stay for love or escape to survive? An easy to read book which kept me captivated. Definitely worth reading. Shani, NSW, 5 Stars

I honestly can’t say I enjoyed Lisa Emanuel’s The Covered Wife, but I couldn’t put it down and would definitely recommend it to others. The characters, especially Sarah, felt so real and easy to empathise with, even though the setting was completely foreign to me. This book will make you think about how strong you actually are and what hard decisions you’d be willing and able to make. The Covered Wife is definitely a book worth reading. Joanne, QLD, 5 Stars

Lisa Emanuel’s The Covered Wife is an extraordinary and chilling examination of love, religion, duty and freedom. Sarah is a very relatable young lawyer who falls in love and joins a large loving family, the likes of which she has never had. A fascinating exploration of Sarah’s life within an intense Jewish cult. Very interesting and at times difficult to read, this is a truly gripping story. Imogen, VIC, 4 Stars

This was a compelling but terrifying look at how people can be drawn into a cult; how a seemingly innocent community can turn into something much darker and horrible; how the rules keep changing and the hypocrisy of the leaders to whom the rules don’t apply. I was drawn into Sarah’s story, seeing the red flags as she was drawn into the relationship with Daniel and the cult, wishing she would take notice but knowing she wanted to believe and belong so much that she would ignore her instincts. The ending stunned me – I did not see it coming! Helen, VIC, 4 Stars

The Covered Wife by Lisa Emanuel is a captivating tale from start to finish. With beautiful and thought-provoking prose, as well as palpable suspense, this story is definitely one to add to the TBR pile! Sarah, VIC, 4 Stars

Born Jewish, raised anything but. Despite being a successful lawyer, Sarah thinks she’s found what was missing in her life when she meets Daniel. She falls hard for him, his family and his faith. What she endures over the years to me was mind boggling but just showed how vulnerable and accepting people can be. I knew next to nothing about the Jewish religion so not only did this book give me a great story but some education too! Like many other reviewers, I need a sequel – that was not the end I was hoping for! Katrina, VIC, 4 Stars

The Covered Wife by Lisa Emanuel is an easy to read novel which invites the reader into the life of people within a charismatic and manipulative Jewish community. The dual narratives of past and present events creates an intriguing plotline and develops a sense of unease throughout the novel. The novel really makes you think about the intricacies of human nature, the power of religion, and the way people can be subtly drawn into situations they do not expect. Overall an interesting and quick read, however, the ending did leave me feeling uncomfortable and conflicted. Kirsten, NSW, 4 Stars

Thank you Better Reading for the opportunity to read The Covered Wife by Lisa Emanuel. This was definitely an interesting read. It did keep me wanting to read more but I think because some of it was so intense. At times it made me sick to think people live this way and to have to follow rules and be punished for not following them according to their law. To be drawn into such an extreme cult made life very challenging for Sarah and took away her personality. Judy, NSW, 4 Stars

The book was very interesting, I enjoyed it as I haven’t read a book for years and this one really kept me enthralled and I couldn’t put it down! Samantha, QLD, 4 Stars

This is Lisa Emanuel’s debut novel, and it is fantastic. Her writing style is elegant and captivating – I truly could not put this book down. The pace is spot on, and tidbits of information are given to us at perfect intervals to keep the suspense high and the pages flipping. It was at times thrilling and had my heart racing, and at other times gentle and introspective, providing thoughtful insights into womanhood. The amount of detail that has been put into this novel is so impressive, and we find ourselves just as immersed into Rabbi Menachem’s community as Sarah is. There are times where the behaviour of the community members is so maddening, Sarah’s included. I just wanted to shake her, and then give her a big hug! The story is so well executed, though, that the reader develops a relationship with Sarah, and we reach a good understanding of her journey into this community. It is frustrating, but understandable. Lisa has perfectly executed a detailed look at how an outwardly strong, smart and successful person can fall prey to a clever manipulator. This is an excellent book, and I eagerly look forward to seeing what Lisa Emanuel writes next. Alexandra, NSW, 4 Stars

I really couldn’t put this book down. What starts off as a simple love story about faith, quickly descends into the dark depths of what people (and especially women) will do for love and acceptance. The story weaves backwards and forwards through time and details Sarah’s (the main character) life from her viewpoint. Religion and the extremes people go to is one of the main focuses of the story. The author creates the characters with such skill that I felt every emotion along with Sarah. The themes of family are also explored – the single-parent family, the large Jewish family, and the family Sarah and her husband Daniel create for themselves. Love is also a common theme – the love between a parent and child, husband and wife, friends, siblings and most importantly self-love. Sarah makes many personal life sacrifices throughout her journey and the ending leaves you questioning everything. I found the story very moving – some of the storyline is quite heartbreaking. Fantastic, especially for a debut novel – I was thoroughly intrigued from start to finish. Debra, NSW, 4 Stars

Such an emotional read, was hard to get into at the start as it was a little slow-moving. However, stick with it and you will enjoy this read. If you enjoy The Handmaid’s Tale, then this book you will really enjoy. The main character Sarah really pulls at your heartstrings and really draws you into her life. The book will keep you intrigued until the very end, although I have to admit I wanted to story to keep going. A very well-written book and it really gave insight into the Jewish faith of which I had known nothing about beforehand. Caroline, NSW, 4 Stars

Can love overcome everything? Is family more important than religion? These are just two questions that the book made me think about. From the first page, you are drawn into the life of Sarah. Lonely and with no real drive in her private life. Then she meets Daniel and slowly she has new friends and a new life that revolves around religion. The story is set when they first meet and four years later. Is Sarah really happy with her new life? The book was a great read. Cath, QLD, 4 Stars

Sarah is an only child raised by her mother. Longing for family, she prays for a sister who never materialises. When she is 11, she learns that her mother has concealed aunts and cousins from her. Her mother has also turned her back on her Jewish heritage. This yearning for family connection underpins Sarah’s journey in The Covered Wife. She meets and marries Daniel, an attractive man with a loving traditional Jewish family. He then draws Sarah into a welcoming non-mainstream Jewish community, and when they have an opportunity to set up their community on a property outside Sydney, there is no hesitation in joining in. The book is told from Sarah’s point of view. We see her joy in her new-found faith community, and her distress as her husband begins to move away from her, for reasons neither she nor we understand. She is torn between what has become a rigid life in the commune and the relaxed acceptance of the mothers’ group in the nearby town. The first-time author, Lisa Emanuel, has done a great job showing the tensions Sarah experiences in what has become an alien world. I was particularly saddened by the escalating harshness of life in the commune, as people strove for a relationship with what becomes an unloving god of their own making. More than a book about living in a religious cult, The Covered Wife skilfully explores belonging to a group, and the lengths some people might go to, to achieve the relationship they desire. Kim, VIC, 4 Stars

Sarah meets Daniel through a mutual friend. Sarah is an only child. Daniel has a large family Sarah longs for. Daniel introduces Sarah to a young couple that are part of a “progressive synagogue”. Sarah is drawn into Daniel’s “extreme” beliefs in Judaism. Terrifying truths are exposed that threaten to tear Sarah’s world apart, making her question everything. Sarah is vulnerable, naive, lonely, in need of company, assurance, love because she was brought up by her mother without a family or siblings and doesn’t know how or where to fit in. Her loneliness has drawn her to Daniel and his religious belief as comfort. She feels safe and secure and needs and wants to be surrounded by people with a connection through religion. Sarah’s mental weakness, lack of confidence, self-doubt are taken advantage of and challenged in a cruel and selfish way by Daniel and his beliefs. Emanuel’s novel is thought-provoking and eye-opening and shows that you never really know a person and mental health is a huge factor when making life choices. How far will someone go for happiness and fulfilment? What truths can families keep from one another? The truth always comes out. Arrisarne, VIC, 4 Stars

What an interesting novel. The Covered Wife starts as a seemingly romantic novel, With Sarah slowly falling in love with Daniel. But he has secrets, and draws her into a cult of more extreme Judaism. It takes Sarah a while to see that she does not like all the rules that she has to live by but by then it is too late (or so she thinks). I found it an interesting read especially the many cultural traditions followed by the sect. Anne, NSW, 3 Stars

This book gave a good insight as to how bad a cult can turn. When a person has too much power, others are scared to get out. The story tells of a man who has ownership, of himself and his slave of a wife. Kylie, SA, 3 Stars

While reading this I kept wondering how it’d go down (if noticed at all) in Bondi… I always appreciate all the local references in books set in Sydney, and The Covered Wife was an added surprise, being (initially) partly set in and around Bondi Beach and Bellevue Hill, where I used to live. The reminiscences and recollections provoked by the names of familiar streets and places though soon gave over to a Bondi I’m not aware of in any way; I could understand Sarahs’ attraction to this new way of life (and as she saw it, a return to her roots), while also increasingly hoping she’d run very fast in the opposite direction! Ayesha, NSW, 3 Stars

A story of one woman’s struggle to find her way in the world, and most importantly, be liked. A real eye-opener to how people in our community who might be feeling a little lost get caught up in a cult environment, and how incredibly difficult it is to leave. Sarah is an interesting protagonist and we come to learn more about why she is the way she is, struggling to find love and friendship, as the story unfolds. The Covered Wife introduces a host of characters from Sarah’s life both ‘before’ and ‘after’ to help develop her character. References to Jewish culture, customs and foods are also plentiful and provide insight into beliefs and practices which are sometimes taken to the extreme. Internet searches are helpful when unfamiliar Jewish terms are used! I finished this book feeling like I had learnt a lot about the day to day practices of Judaism, a religion I knew little about and understood how it is possible for everyday people to be slowly lured, then trapped in an extremist cult. Jodi, QLD, 3 Stars

The Covered Wife is a compelling and disturbing read. I was interested in Jewish customs and religion. The book details an example of an extreme ‘sect’ and how easy it is to be manipulated by charismatic people when you are seeking purpose. The book starts slowly to set the scene and then the pace hastens. Sections of the book were about the past to provide background and parts about the present as it progressed toward the final reveal. I am still thinking about the issues raised in The Covered Wife – definitely thought-provoking. Sandra, ACT, 3 Stars

I liked the idea of the story, but I found it didn’t quite hit the mark. There were many Jewish words and phrases that I didn’t understand and there were no explanations for them. I don’t feel like there was an ending, I feel like someone tore out the last few chapters and I was left wanting! Karina, NSW, 3 Stars

I really tried to like this book but unfortunately didn’t… too much about the religion rather than the actual struggles of the characters. Nicola, QLD, 1 Star

The Covered Wife is a novel that takes us deep into the dangers of taking the wrong course when you’re desperately looking to belong somewhere! Sarah is an intelligent, hard-working woman whose family background is somewhat dysfunctional and when she meets fellow lawyer Daniel, she hopes he might provide that place to belong! But Daniel is also keen on taking on a more strict observance of his Jewish faith. This results in Sarah being torn by what that means for their relationship and whether belonging could end up seeing her controlled by others. Lisa Emanuel’s well-written work shows how easy it could be to be swallowed up by a cult where the leadership assumes more power and seeks to control every aspect of a follower’s daily life. She shows that while faith could be lived with freedom it can also be swallowed by religious ritual, where the difference between right and wrong becomes defined only by the decisions of the cult’s leaders. It’s a tough read. Chris, QLD, 1 Star


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        Publisher details

        The Covered Wife
        Lisa Emanuel
        Pantera Press
        01 June, 2021


        I think I have been here like this – still, but awake; quiet, but wound tight as a spring shoved into a box – since I lay down, not long after dark. But I must have slept, slept then woken, shifted from blessed nothingness to tortured waiting. Sarah is a smart, young lawyer working endless hours when she falls head over heels for Daniel – handsome, passionate and part of the kind of large, chaotically loving family Sarah longed for as the only child of a single mother. When Daniel introduces her to a charismatic young couple, Rabbi Menachem Lev and his wife, Chani, despite herself, Sarah is drawn in by their progressive beachside synagogue and the song, feasting and friendship that come with it. By the time she and Daniel move to the Jamison Valley with the other believers, Sarah can't imagine life without the joy, meaning and love they've discovered. Four years on, youthful fervour has given way to something darker. As the community celebrates the wedding of a beautiful young convert and a much older divorcee, a series of terrifying truths emerges that tear Sarah's world apart, and cause her to question everything – her faith, her marriage and her future. Intelligent, unusual and gripping, The Covered Wife is the debut novel of Sydney author Lisa Emanuel. This captivating story takes us from a seemingly perfect marriage deep into a closed community, and asks 'Where would you draw the line?'
        Lisa Emanuel
        About the author

        Lisa Emanuel

        Born in New Zealand, Lisa Emanuel has lived in Wellington, Jerusalem and Sydney. She’s worked as a political staffer, a judge’s associate, a lawyer, and in marketing and communications. She has studied at the Faber Writing Academy in Sydney, completed a mentorship with the novelist Kathryn Heyman, and in 2016 was awarded Highly Commended in the ASA Mentorship Prize. She lives in Sydney with her husband and three children. Shortlisted for the 2019 KYD Unpublished Manuscript Award, 'The Covered Wife' is her first novel. Her second is a work in progress.

        Books by Lisa Emanuel


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