“It’s quiet here, and the wind just kicked up,” the writer Anita Diamant, who is under lockdown at her house in Newton, just outside Boston, told me this afternoon. “It’s just so weird.”
Diamant, the author of the feminist Jewish novel The Red Tent and several nonfiction books on Jewish ritual, has spent the days since Monday’s bomb blasts at the Boston Marathon trying to find a way back to normal — but the news Friday morning that police were conducting a citywide manhunt for a 19-year-old suspect whose brother was killed in an overnight shootout with police hasn’t helped. “My daughter called me at 7 and said, ‘Don’t go out,’” Diamant said.
The attacks have turned Boston into a small town: when Diamant turned on the news, she heard her colleague Robin Young, host of a program on Boston’s WBUR radio station, talking about the target of the manhunt, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, attending a pre-prom party Young threw for her nephew in 2011. Another acquaintance’s grandchild was a victim of the blast. “That’s what it’s like here,” Diamant said. “It feels personal.”
Earlier this week, Diamant went with her 27-year-old daughter Emilia to the circus downtown, a longtime tradition the pair revived to celebrate Emilia’s recent move back to Boston, and part of an effort to return to normalcy. Boylston Street, still classified as a crime scene, was closed, but they walked to Boston Common, where they found people gathering around ad hoc memorials. “There were people there wearing their marathon jackets,” Diamant said. “Then last night I was at an event in Salem, and people there were wearing their marathon jackets, too. They just become icons.”
Tonight, she and her husband Jim Ball had planned to go to a friend’s house nearby for Shabbat dinner. “If you have a Friday night dinner, even if it’s simple, it’s reassuring, it’s calming,” Diamant said. But now those plans are on hold. Diamant wanted to make bread pudding with a challah she has in the freezer, but doesn’t have eggs and can’t go out to buy them unless the lockdown is lifted; anyway, it’s not clear that the other guests will be able to leave their houses, either. “You want it to end, you want it resolved,” she told me. “I think everyone wants this over, and to know it’s over.”
Allison Hoffman is a senior editor at Tablet Magazine. Her Twitter feed is @allisont_dc.