To honor the prolific and best-selling American Jewish novelist, Jeff Jacoby recalls the impact Wouk’s work had on him:
I had discovered [Wouk’s 1955 novel Marjorie Morningstar] in the library of my Orthodox synagogue in Cleveland. I’m not sure what it was doing there, inasmuch as the abandonment of religious observance in favor of more worldly and unbuttoned lures was one of the book’s themes. Be that as it may, it more than held my interest—especially its description of the “necking” and “furtive sex fumbling” of Marjorie’s love life, a subject that for me was then wholly theoretical and utterly enthralling.
For all I know, I’m the only person who ever read Marjorie Morningstar in a synagogue on Sabbath afternoons. While my father studied Talmud in a class that was taught in Yiddish, I was preoccupied with Wouk’s vivacious heroine. Reading at the rate of a chapter or two each Saturday, it took a while to get through the book. I finished it just in time: one day before I was due to head off to college. . . .
But none of this is why I say that Herman Wouk forever transformed my life.
In 1959, with The Caine Mutiny and Marjorie Morningstar and a few other novels under his belt, Wouk startled his agent by sending him the manuscript of a book quite unlike anything he had written before. Its topic was religion, it bore the title This Is My God (the phrase comes from Exodus 15:2), and it was an explanation of the Modern Orthodox Judaism to which he was and is deeply committed. Wouk had brought all of his gifts as a storyteller to this exposition of his faith; what he produced was learned, warm, and sincere, an exploration of the beauty of Jewish life that managed to be both intellectually rigorous, yet broadly appealing.