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The Tin Horse

3.70  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,506 Ratings  ·  315 Reviews
For fans of the beloved classic A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, a sweeping, multi-generational story about twin sisters, one of whom disappears without a trace in 1939, set in the historically Jewish neighborhood of Boyle Heights, California, and modern-day Los Angeles.

After years of resistance to the idea, feisty octogenarian Elaine Greenstein finally decides to move from the h
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published January 29th 2013 by Random House (first published 2013)
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Mar 30, 2013 Beth rated it it was amazing
Wow, I've lost a friend now that I've finished! I feel like I was sitting in this elderly woman's living room listening to the story of her life, and I ate up every word. Gripping fiction, but could have been non-fiction, it was so believable. Elaine Greenstein grew up Jewish in LA of the 20's and 30's with a fraternal twin sister, in a family of immigrants...and who isn't fascinated with immigration sagas? Add to that the fact that I am a mother of fraternal twin daughters, and I am riveted.... ...more
Feb 08, 2013 Christa rated it it was amazing
The description of this book was spot-on: it really did read like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, but for Los Angeles. The characters were wonderfully developed, and the little day-to-day aspects of their lives were just so engaging. The author didn't need an intricate, convoluted plot to keep my interest--her writing did it enough.

I think my biggest praise for this book is the way the author handled the flashbacks and the present day. The story bounced back and forth, from when Elaine was growing up
Jan 28, 2013 Katy rated it it was ok
Reading this book, I was constantly reminded of that old maxim from my Creative Writing degree that was pounded into our heads over & over: SHOW, DON'T TELL. Because Good Lord, does Steinberg want to tell. Pages and pages of exposition. Reams of it! I found myself flicking through, skimming until I saw a spot of dialogue. That's when you know it's a problem.

I did enjoy some of the gritty scenes in the past, eager to view the world of 1930s Los Angeles and the Jewish community of Boyle Height
JoAnne Pulcino

Janice Steinberg

A multigenerational immigrant family saga depicting the ties that bind in families, and the traumas sometimes only love can transcend.

The novel takes place in the 1920’s and 1930’s in the predominately Jewish community of Boyle Heights in Los Angeles. Sixty years ago Elaine’s twin sister Barbara ran away leaving only a cryptic note. While sorting old papers Elaine unearths what may amount to a clue to her twin sister’s disappearance. This journey is an emotional, hea
Abigail Padgett
Feb 12, 2013 Abigail Padgett rated it it was amazing
How do we know who we are? For some, family and culture provide a comfortable path to identity. For others that path can be a prison, and escape at any cost a desperate necessity. The Tin Horse, narrated by octogenarian Elaine Greenstein, traces the history of a complex and interesting family through several generations, from Romania to the now-vanished Jewish enclave of Boyle Heights in Los Angeles County. Elaine, intriguingly based on a cameo character in Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep, find ...more
Jul 26, 2015 Ginny rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful book. The story is told in the voice of Elaine Greenstein, a retired attorney.Her tone is conversational and you gradually get to know her as you would in real life. The complexity of her life and her character are gradually revealed as she tells her story. When I first met her, I found her a touch annoying and self absorbed. But as the book progressed I fell in love with Elaine and the whole family.

It's an exciting story with a mysterious disappearance and search for a twin
Sheryl Tempchin
Nov 29, 2012 Sheryl Tempchin rated it it was amazing
I loved this novel. Behind the main plot of octogenarian Elaine Greenstein's search for her long lost twin sister, is the tale of an immigrant family's struggles to assimilate into American culture while retaining their identity. The story is filled with wonderful characters and a wealth of detail about life in Los Angeles in the 1930s and 40s--but a different Los Angeles than the one usually seen in books and movies. Highly recommended.
Aug 04, 2013 Susan rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc-edition
Like any family worth its salt, this fictional family has secrets and dissension, love and hate and loyalties and betrayals. And like the best of fictional families, this one seemed very real to me.

Elaine, one of the daughters in this close-knit family and now an old woman moving into a retirement community, reluctantly decides to try to find out what happened to a sibling decades after last seeing her. From early-Hitler Romania to modern-day Los Angeles, the Jewish family has quite a story to t
May 12, 2013 Judie rated it it was amazing
I know this book is a novel, but I kept wanting to check out some of the names on search engines because the characters and situations seemed so real.
THE TIN HORSE is actually more than one story. Elaine Greenstein, a lawyer who specialized in human rights issues, was born in Boyle Heights, a Los Angeles suburb, in 1921, seventeen minutes after her twin sister, Barbara. They grew up in a Jewish environment where many of their neighbors and some of their relatives were new immigrants from Europ
Harriet Rochlin
In this, her sixth novel, Janice Steinberg, a tireless researcher and a gifted storyteller, covers 85 years in the lives of a Western Jewish clan in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, and elsewhere -- all of which she compresses into 336 pages of engagingly-composed English and, as needed, Yiddish.

The Tin Horse opens in 2006 when Elaine Greenstein Resnick -- an esteemed Los Angeles feminist and civil rights attorney, the surviving spouse of a long, compatible marriage, and the grandmother of three --
Dec 09, 2012 Cindy rated it really liked it
I won this book through Goodreads First Reads and I am so happy that I did.

I found this novel to be a very intriguing and captivating story about growing up in an immigrant family in the United States. The story is set in the current, as Elaine, the main character, is in the process of moving to a retirement home. Her twin sister disappeared many, many years ago and Elaine searches for an explanation. There are some unresolved family mysteries, memories, and authentic family interactions. Great
Mar 18, 2013 Beth rated it liked it
I really wanted to like this book, because it is well-written and the characters are fully-drawn. However, I just couldn't get invested in the central plot, the main character Elaine's search for her missing sister. The author didn't make me care enough about the outcome. If you want to learn more about the history of the 1920’s and 1930’s in the predominately Jewish community of Boyle Heights in Los Angeles, then yes, read it. But if you want a compelling, emotional story, you may be disappoint ...more
Feb 19, 2013 Hannah rated it liked it
In her eighties, Elaine Greenstein is finally in the process of moving into a retirement home. Opening in the present day, readers first meet Elaine as she's packing up and organizing the many things she's collected over her life. Because she is a well-known attorney, her alma mater has sent an archivist, Josh, to help her go through her papers and decide what will be donated to the university.

Read my full review at So Obsessed With!
Feb 05, 2013 Julia rated it it was ok
Gosh, have I had a dry spell and it doesn't look to get better.
This book was put aside so many times, I thought to never finish it. And it has to be really bad for me not to, so I persevered.
Told from the memories and recollections of a now 85-year-old woman, the reader bounces back and forth between the past and present. It got tedious. And the stories just weren't riviting enough to keep the reader engaged. Formulaic ending, just not worth the time.
Dec 31, 2012 Vera rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
I love this story, it starts with our lead lady in the present and yet takes us back in time to the days of her youth. A story of family that survives the loss of a child although not thru death. A mystery that will keep you on the edge of your seat asking how is that possible. I'm looking forward to more by this author.
I received a free copy thru Goodreads first reads.
Mar 23, 2014 Linda rated it it was ok
I expected The Tin Horse by Janice Steinberg to be an engaging mystery uncovering the truth behind a sister's disappearance. Was it foul play or purposeful? The story was narrated by Elaine Greenstein, a successful 85 year old retired attorney, who was the fraternal twin of Barbara Greenstein; Barbara, much more wild and provocative than Elaine, disappeared many years ago, never to be heard from again despite desperate attempts by her family to locate her. While packing up her things to move int ...more
Mar 20, 2014 Dianna rated it really liked it
Every person has a distinct opinion on what kind of family they grew up in. The first born grew up in a totally different one than that of the 'baby'. Parents are changed and molded by life so that they relate to each child accordingly.

Fraternal twins, Elaine and Barbara (older by 17 minutes), as unalike as they can be, live in each others shadow; Elaine the quiet, studious, serious one and Barbara the outgoing fun-loving, adventurous one. Growing up in California in a Jewish household whose mo
Feb 05, 2013 Diane rated it it was amazing
I liked this novel very much, and I'm not just saying that because the author is a friend. In fact, knowing the author made for a slight distraction in my reading experience, as I remembered conversations we'd had or realized that in my mind's eye the narrator character (Elaine) was looking a lot like Janice. But those were very minor concerns next to the sheer pleasure of reading my way through this story. One-phrase summation: it's like I Remember Mama, with a smart, sharp edge. There's nothin ...more
Mar 15, 2013 Laurel-Rain rated it it was amazing
In the opening scenes of "The Tin Horse: A Novel," we meet Elaine Greenstein, sorting through boxes that hold the memorabilia of her life and the lives of her parents.

Elaine has had a rich and full life as an attorney, and the causes she took on have made her something of a celebrity in her ranks. A young man named Josh, an archivist, is helping her decide which of her mementos to donate to USC . Because Elaine is finally leaving her home in Santa Monica for Rancho Manana, a retirement home that
Apr 29, 2013 Amy rated it really liked it
A great book about Los Angeles in the 1920s & 1930s. An okay book about sister-secrets, mother-secrets, etc.

Elaine Greenstein, now in her 80s, is moving out of her house and into an independent living facility. As she packs her things, she finds a new clue to the twin sister who ran away from home at age 18 and never contacted her family again. The novel's chapters then alternate between Elaine's current-day search and her family's stories from Boyle Heights in the Depression.

I loved how th
Feb 23, 2013 Peggy rated it it was amazing
Say that it's the first night of a writing class at UCSD in the mid-1980's and the other writers seem interesting but the teacher (last minute replacement) seems awful and then 3-4 women in the parking lot ask one another, are you coming back next week? When no one says yes there's only one thing to do - start meeting on your own. Then imagine that almost 30 years later, in a different part of the country, you learn that your former writing colleague has finished a novel, had it taken up by Fran ...more
Dec 17, 2012 Carol rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I love books about ordinary people living their everyday lives. I enjoy them even more when they involve other races, religions, or cultures and expose me to worlds that I would otherwise never see from the sheltered corner of my life. This is one of those books.

The Tin Horse tells the story of Elaine Greenstein, born in the 1920's, who grows up in Los Angeles in a Jewish community. The book opens with Elaine going through boxes of keepsakes and papers as she prepares to move into a retirement
Kelly Duplechin
Dec 24, 2012 Kelly Duplechin rated it liked it
I won The Tin Horse as a Goodreads prize, and I was very much looking forward to loving it. While I did become invested in the characters which the book centers around, I thought there were missed opportunities as well. The story tells of Elaine, her wild sister Barbara, and their family in the height of anti-semitic times in America, as well as relatives that are enduring much worse in their home countries. It is a coming of age tale that is abruptly complicated by the voluntary disappearance o ...more
Anne Wolfe
Oct 31, 2013 Anne Wolfe rated it liked it
I really enjoyed reading this book, yet I have so many criticisms. The story, told from the perspective of the younger of fraternal twin sisters is very readable and had a good deal of interesting back stories, i.e., the depression, World War II as it affects young high schoolers, immigrant Jews in California,family secrets and more. And yet, and yet, the characters are only two dimensional and the entire plot is contrived. ( Detective Phillip Marlow is an actual person in the story. (?)) It all ...more
Rachel Poynter
Feb 10, 2013 Rachel Poynter rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 13, 2015 Connie rated it it was amazing
This book has been on the "to be read" stack for so long it almost grew roots. It is only an accident that it has floated to the top of the stack and I picked it up. So glad I did. It was a wonderful story about family, our place in it, our relationships in it and the possibility that every person grows up in a different family. "Some people don't just leave the family nest; they feel like they're running for their lives."
Terri Jacobson
Elaine Greenstein is 85 years old and going through her papers prior to moving to a retirement center. Elaine's twin sister, Barbara, ran away from home and disappeared over 60 years ago. Elaine now finds clues as to where her sister might be. In telling the story, Elaine looks back on her life growing up in the Jewish community of Boyle Heights, in Los Angeles, during the 1920s and 1930s. The story is multigenerational and quite good, and it held my interest. I liked the characters. This is nor ...more
Feb 15, 2013 Ginny rated it liked it
I wish we could give 1/2 stars, since this was a 3 1/2 for me. While I liked the book, the concentration on Barbara and Elaine's younger years got a bit tedious, although I know it was to set the stage for Barbara's disappearance. I also thought Elaine's activities as an 85-year-old - driving from L.A. to Colorado, snowmobiling - were a bit far-fetched. It would have been more convincing if she had been portrayed as at least 10 years younger. And while I really enjoyed the story of the twins' fa ...more
Aug 14, 2014 Resalo rated it liked it
This book indeed reminded me of "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn'. While a good read it was tedious at times. Author does a good job of describing what life must have been like for Jewish immigrants in the 1930s and 40s in Los Angeles. It is the family dynamics that fuel the book. The "mystery" in the book of the missing sister was not the strength of the plot in my opinion.
I love multi-generational stories of immigrants’ experiences so when I saw The Tin Horse by Janice Steinberg, I wanted to know more. That this novel has been compared to Lisa See’s work intrigued me since I love her novels. Then I read the publisher’s brief description of the concept and I was hooked. If you like historical fiction or stories about how families evolve over time then you’ll want to know more about the Greensteins of Boyle Heights (a Los Angeles suburb). This is the story of siste ...more
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I grew up in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, which is less bucolic than it sounds; it’s a suburb of Milwaukee. Whitefish Bay is nonetheless charming. It’s right on Lake Michigan. Quiet streets, glorious autumns. One of my earliest memories is of standing with my mother in a cozy brick building that was at one time the public library. I think the cozy building later became the police department, which do ...more
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