Cut Me Loose

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In her soul-searing memoir Cut Me Loose, Leah Vincent tells her painful story of growing up and escaping from her cruel repressive ultra-Orthodox Jewish family. Leah describes her own strict but not unaffectionate bringing-up at the hands of her overworked mother and prominent Rabbi father.

 

Leah’s mother cooked and cleaned endlessly while having baby after baby. Her father preaches and works at converting Jews back to orthodoxy. As parents they had little time or desire to coddle their children with affection.

 

Leah and her sisters were expecting to marry a boy from their community by age 18. Higher education was not approved of for women. Introductions were made by family and friends. Socializing was not approved and most couples decided to marry or not after meeting a few times.

 

A series of seemingly innocent missteps brings about Leah’s downfall.  First she writes letters to her friend’s brother, whom she meets in seminary. The two have long conversations about life. This is forbidden. In disgrace, she is sent off to another school in Israel. Her parents are angry with her and have given her a tiny allowance. She feels like a misfit in old stained clothes, so she buys a new sweater. She looks and feels fabulous. She feels like she might finally fit in. When the purchase is reported to her mother by her sister Leah is cut off from funds and emotional support. She is treated like a criminal.

 

Leah is forced to take menial jobs to survive. She cleans houses. As she does this her studies plummet and she becomes depressed. When a man, a friend of a friend from school, arrives she begins the first of her disastrous affairs seeking comfort for the loss of love and belonging.

 

When she finishes school in Israel her parents sent her a ticket home. The message Leah gets is she is “forgiven” and her place restored.  But she is wrong. She is just dropped into a Jewish part of town and given a miserable job and apartment. Leah works and lives in an ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood.  She “waits” for a husband as she has been taught to do. Leah is constantly hungry for food, companionship, and love. Her parents refuse to give her anything.  After a heartrending call to her mother for help and a plea to know what she has done, Leah’s mother sends her a check for $20.

 

Desperate for love and a sense of belonging, Leah indiscriminately reaches out for love. Her romantic liaisons are sad, as she used and exploited. Finally, Leah finds her way through education and pain back to a life of love and expression.

 

Cut Me Loose is riveting, powerful, and painful to read. This story will resonate with anyone who had suffered the consequences of being rejected for being different. This is a struggle many women and men face every day when they are disowned by their families and communities for wanting the freedom to choose their education, sexuality, or lifestyle.

 

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