A young bride shuts herself up in a bedroom on her wedding day, refusing to get married. The harder her family tries to reach the defiant woman, the more the despairing groom is convinced her refusal should be respected. But what, exactly, ought to be respected? Is this merely a case of cold feet? A feminist statement? Or a mourning ritual for a lost sister?
Matalon is a unique literary stylist whose pitch-perfect novel focuses on the spectacle of the big day, two families’ lives, and the couple’s relationship as it falls apart ... Matalon nails how families relate to each other. Her scenes are cinematic and evocative, every gesture packed with emotional tells. The tiny fractures hidden in daily life become rifts until no one moves ... Jessica Cohen’s translation gives Matalon’s winding sentences the easy, metrical rhythms of speech, and Matalon’s layering of language, emotion, scene, and cultural references comes through. This novel is a masterful rendering of a failed wedding day and the embedded failures that individuals, a family, and a culture accrue in the process of trying to manage their circumstances.
One could tout the graces of Matalon’s novella on a number of fronts. Its layered brand of humor—part slapstick, part wit—seeps in and out of darkness with bite, yielding a compact tragicomedy on love and loss. While its characters may flirt with the cartoonish, they never quit the realm of plausibility: their foibles are utterly, achingly human. Its prose, translated by Man Booker Prize winner Jessica Cohen, is a deftly wielded knife. The author’s approach to longstanding issues in Israeli politics warrants special praise. Her concern for women, Arab Jews, and Palestinians marks the narrative but doesn’t outweigh it—a glowing case of show-don’t-tell ... Perhaps most interestingly, though, the book can be read as an allegory of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at large: a tale of mutually perceived 'others' fighting for a home ... And the Bride Closed the Door, [Matlon's] parting song of loving wrath, is arguably her finest. One can only hope that it is heard widely and often, and that the key to peace soon turns in its all-too-rusty lock.
Given that its action unfolds over a single day in a small apartment, And the Bride Closed the Door often feels as claustrophobic and rancorous as Israeli society itself ... Arguably the most humorous of her works, Matalon’s farcical treatment of the Israeli wedding industry offers sly commentary on how fraught marriages have become in the Jewish State, as if the entire Zionist enterprise would grind to a halt were one bride to suddenly resist ... knowing, sophisticated and humane ... And the Bride Closed the Door offers its readers all the more reason to mourn the loss of Matalon’s bold, uncompromising voice.