Desert Isle Keeper
The Intimacy Experiment
Rosie Danan does it again with her beautiful The Intimacy Experiment, which is about spirituality, sex and true love in equal measures.
Ex-porn-star turned sex educator Naomi Grant – AKA Hanna Sturm – wants to expand her highly-regarded start-up website, Shameless, into the realm of public lecturing, but due to her past – and the fact that she willingly calls out the privilege of the academic and religious worlds – no one’s willing to hire her.
Rabbi Ethan Cohen has a small shul with a tiny number of worshippers, something that becomes a problem when his synagogue’s executive board points out that they’re hemorrhaging money and need to do something to fix the situation quickly, or they’ll shutter the shul. When he’s named one of Los Angeles’ most eligible bachelors, the notion of drawing young, hip millennials to witness his worship services comes to his attention.
When they meet after her failed presentation to the board of his synagogue, Naomi and Ethan realize that they have a perfect solution to their problems in one another. At Ethan’s suggestion, they join forces to put forth a series of seminars on the topic of modern intimacy at the shul. Naomi writes the syllabus, and together they try to work out the hypotenuses they’ve developed when it comes to love and sex. In the process of working together, they begin to develop feelings for each other. But the constant rejection Naomi’s been through – and the battle they must wage against the world to keep the shul open – pose a possible risk.
I adored this book so much. Naomi’s one of my favorite heroines of the year so far: ambitious, tender at heart, but understandably self-protective after everything she was put through in high school. For everyone who’s been waiting for her romance since The Roommate, you will not be disappointed. She has to learn to overcome the past, and when she does the reward is rich.
Ethan, meanwhile, is a warm-at-heart cinnamon roll with a strong community surrounding him. Adored him as well.
Their story – a slow burn romance, beautiful to behold – is about Naomi rediscovering the power of emotional intimacy, her Judaism and a baseline sense of faith after being so rejecting of harmful others and Ethan learning how to open up a little more. Spirituality and personal growth as well as romantic growth fill the page.
This is a novel about communities – the one Naomi has at Shameless, the one Ethan has at the shul, and the one they form together at the classes and among their friends – and I love the way Danan puts that feeling of intimacy together. The big enemy in this novel – besides Naomi’s self-doubt and scars – is definitely the repressive nature of the academic world through which she must navigate. This is handled in a way that’s not-over-the-top cartoony, but explains Naomi’s frustration with the academic world and Ethan’s desire to grow the shul’s foot traffic due to his love of his own faith.
The Intimacy Experiment is like a long soak in a hot bubble bath – worth absolutely every second you spend relishing it. It is glorious, soul-enriching, and sweetly romantic. I highly recommend it.