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Literature & Fiction - Contemporary

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Acts of Atonement

ISBN: 9781940189307
Binding: Paperback
Author: S. W. Leicher
Pages: 320
Trim: 5.5 x 8.5 inches
Published: 6/20/2022

Second in a two-book series on the rewards—and the price—of rebellion. Serach Gottesman—the sheltered but headstrong daughter of a rigidly Ultra-Orthodox Jewish family and Paloma Rodriguez—the tough, ambitious daughter of an even tougher Latina immigrant mother, meet in the first book and (unable to resist one another) launch a forbidden romance.

The story now picks up ten years later. Successfully pursuing their careers, ensconced in their big Flatbush Victorian home, delighting in the city's diverse riches, hobnobbing with famous musicians—they've built a loving and satisfying life for themselves. Serach has made peace with all that she's had to sacrifice—her faith, her old neighborhood, her beloved baby brother—to follow the path that she's chosen. Paloma has become highly adept at deflecting her older brother's resentment (and her own guilt) at how far she's come since leaving the South Bronx behind her.

And then things happen. An unexpected death. A seductive opportunity. A reckoning over childrearing approaches. A brutal crime. An even more brutal arrest. And all those hard-won balances shift.

Acts of Atonement is a quintessential New York City novel (with a couple of side trips to Jerusalem). It illuminates two arch-typically urban communities—Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn and immigrant Latina Bronx. It zeroes in on a particular lesbian couple in a particular part of town. The questions it raises, however, are universal:

  • In a society of robustly insular tribalism, can anyone fully escape the pull of what they've grown up with?
  • In a time of dazzling multi-culturalism, can anyone totally ignore the allure of competing worldviews?
  • In a country that persistently brands certain groups as outsiders, can those outsiders ever truly receive fair treatment?

Can two born rule-breakers—no matter how initially smitten—live long-term within the confines and expectations of a permanent partnership?

Acts of Atonement asks how far any of us is willing to go to sustain love, to reclaim a heritage, to achieve justice—to stay true to our complicated selves.


S.W. Leicher grew up in the Bronx in a bi-cultural (Latina and Jewish) home. She moved to Manhattan after graduate school and raised her family on the Upper West Side, where she still lives with her husband and two black cats. When not dreaming up fiction, she writes about social justice issues for nonprofit organizations.


"S.W. Leicher has produced a compelling, engaging, and fast-paced narrative that offers masterful insights into New York City's social and ethnic diversity and its criminal justice system." - Jules Stewart, Author of Policing the Big Apple: The Story of the NYPD

"A book that proves just how vibrant and connected the lives of New Yorkers are." - Sonia Manzano, Author of Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx, Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award for her portrayal of Maria on Sesame Street