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The Wholeness of a Broken Heart
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The Wholeness of a Broken Heart

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  240 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
Hailed as a masterpiece, this poignant mother-daughter novel revolves around the story of a young woman's troubled relationship with her mother. Narrated in the voices of four generations of Jewish women, The Wholeness of a Broken Heart explores the vastly different experiences which divide first generation Jewish Americans from their parents and grand-parents.
Paperback, 448 pages
Published September 1st 2000 by Riverhead Trade (first published 1999)
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(showing 1-30)
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Jul 27, 2007 Rachel rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Present tense got kind of annoying. I couldn't really sympathize with the characters.
Oct 23, 2010 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book when it was first published, I read it again the following year and now I just reread passages. It is moving, it is tragic, it is raw and it is real. It predates the Holocaust and it brings us into current day. There isn't a sentimental phrase in this book, yet it is evokes emotion with every turn of the page. Grow up as a grand-daughter of survivors of the Pogroms and Holocaust. Grow up as the daughter of a mother whose own parents could barely make their way in America. I ...more
Feb 12, 2009 Martha added it
Shelves: book-club
This book is about several generations of [mostly:] the women of one family. I think what it does best is show how love and need and dependence and independence and resentment and support flow in different directions, through time and between different people... and how our understanding of each other is not necessarily helped by being present with a family member, nor is it hindered or stopped by losing a family member. I felt like a web was ever-growing as I read it, yet a small bright light ...more
Sep 12, 2010 Emmie rated it it was amazing
I stumbled upon this book somewhat by mistake perusing the shelves at our local used book store, but let me tell you that I was utterly blown away by this novel. The emotional intensity across generations is astounding, and parts of this book literally had my hands shaking. Absolutely beautiful, and definitely should be considered a valuable addition to Holocaust literature.
Heather Olson Beal
Jan 15, 2009 Heather Olson Beal rated it really liked it
I really liked this book, although it took me a while to get in to it. Lots of characters. I kept forgetting who was who. Very rich history re: the Jewish immigrant experience. Interesting mother/daughter relationships. Neat Jewish sayings/proverbs.
May 23, 2015 Rhonda rated it really liked it
This book is a real gem, one of those $1 finds that seems like a gift. I love how the author used the previous generations to explain what brought mother and daughter to this place.
May 25, 2011 Jill rated it really liked it
This book was one of my D.I. finds so I didn't know anything about it before I started reading it. It didn't take very long for me to get sucked into this story of 4 generations of Jewish women. I loved it that their stories were told from their own perspective and that their relationships as mothers, daughters and granddaughters were so complex.

There were some uncomfortable issues in this book, but not enough that I didn't want to keep reading it.

"I saw you wanting to know and love the world b
Aug 01, 2012 Barbara rated it really liked it
The dance through the generations made me think of my own dance...I too have always been interested in the stories of my ancestors, piecing together tales of my own imagining from just a few scattered facts. I too always believe the dead to be with us, watching over, and I talk to them sometimes, though I have never heard their answers. Reading such scenarios seemed to feel like the verification of fact, though it was likely the author's imagining as much as my own. No matter. I relate too to ...more
Dec 06, 2010 Karen rated it really liked it
I liked the main character a lot and was interested in her family's stories. She didn't seem to really have enough of an emotional wound from her mother's shutting her out, which was odd for a character who seemed relatively deep in other ways, especially since this relationship was the main point of the book. I think the author intended her to be upset, by but not showing how the break with her mother affected her other relationships, she made the character seem unaffected. Also, I expected ...more
Jun 07, 2016 Rilo rated it liked it
I found this story to be disturbing. It is a sensitive tale that takes place through generations told by the women and defined mostly by the relationships the women had with their mothers. The current day protagonist, Hannah, was adored by her mother, Celia, as a child and rejected when she became a young woman. She is on the journey of being a writer and the begins to discover the story behind her mother mostly through her Grandmother, Ida. We are taken through the harrowing events that ...more
Stacey  D.
Oct 16, 2011 Stacey D. rated it liked it
Singer's great prose is the mainstay of this novel. The flashbacks into the world of four generations of women is riveting. Unfortunately, the contemporary story which is the crux of the novel, leaves one with lingering questions, mainly about the characters' self-awareness and awkward handling of their emotions. For such intelligent and sensitive women as Celia and Hannah are supposed to be, they do a poor job of rectifying their tenuous relationship and never acknowledge the root of each of ...more
Nov 21, 2014 Shelie rated it liked it
This was an interesting book. Multiple generations of Jewish women telling their stories and about their relationships to each other. It was sad and some parts I just couldn't understand or relate to. I was frustrated at times and just wanted to yell "just say something!" I guess it is human nature to avoid unpleasantness. Overall, somewhat enjoyable in a slow and steady kind of way. It made me wish I could hear my mother's and grandmother's stories and that I would have asked more questions.
Jul 20, 2011 Michelle rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
I just love multi-generational novels, particularly those about women. I also tend to like novels told from multiple perspectives. This fills the bill on both counts.

When Hannah's formerly adoring mother suddenly shuts her out, I am shocked. I am angry on Hannah's behalf. I am mystified. The rest of the story, and the differing viewpoints and experiences that are revealed, helps me to understand more. I still don't agree with what she did, but I can understand her better.

I love Hannah's grandmo
J. Dru
Oct 14, 2009 J. Dru rated it it was amazing
This book ripped a whole in my heart. Only two other things have been able to do that. All of them remind me of my mother. I loved this book all the way through, though the middle slowed me down. I felt such kinship with this family. The writting was so elegant, so honest and true. This is the most heartfelt writing I have ever experienced. These characters were so richly developed, I fell in love with them and hope they exist somewhere...

All other words escape me.
Kelly Crosgrove Sullivan Bredon
Oct 12, 2013 Kelly Crosgrove Sullivan Bredon rated it really liked it
Shelves: finished-book
This book is a great historical read regarding the Jewish and the Holocaust. It is told from the perspective of surviving family that had relocated to America before the Holocaust. The book does jump around between 3 (or 4?) time periods and can be a little hard to keep up with, that is the only reason why I didn't give it a 5.
Bridgit Brown
Dec 25, 2010 Bridgit Brown rated it liked it
Katie was my high school writing mentor, so I was very anxious to read this when it came out. She actually left our school to write this book. I like the structure of the story - how each chapter has a date and is told from different perspectives. It was a long, drawn-out read, however.
May 18, 2014 Mushy rated it it was amazing
All my favorite ingredients: Multigenerational
Characters narrate common ties from their perspective
Input from the 'other side'
Jan 07, 2016 Maribeth rated it really liked it
Loved this. It's definitely a 4.5 for me - probably would have given it a 5 but I'm not sure how I feel about the ending. Glad I own this one (and it's been sitting here for years unread) because I would definitely read it again.
Jul 24, 2009 Lanah rated it really liked it
I liked it a lot, though the negativity of the mother/daughter relationship might not be everyone's cup of tea. I don't mind reading about character's relationship problems - makes me feel better bout myself...
Sep 09, 2016 Lisa rated it it was amazing
Narrated through the voices of generations of women, the novel describes the complex relationships of mothers and daughters through changing perspectives of each of several women, mothers and daughters to one another.

Pat Hardy
May 20, 2011 Pat Hardy marked it as to-read
from JoanCowan: it's the author's first book, and i thought it was great. it's about several generations of a jewish family. i was completely absorbed in each one of the character's lives
Laure Bodner
Jun 29, 2010 Laure Bodner rated it it was amazing
I looooved this book....plunges deep into the bonds between women and especially the mother/daughter relationship. Highly recommended......thank you Susan!
May 07, 2010 Vikki rated it it was amazing
This is the story of a Jewish family. The Mother stops talking to the daughter. The whole book explains why. Excellent. I loved it.
Nov 07, 2015 Marie-Anne rated it really liked it
Generations of Jewish women speak to a young Clevelander and help her come to terms with her mother.
Jan 17, 2011 Flower rated it liked it
found on my bookshelf, just finished. Don't get Yiddish at all. Good story and the ending didn't leave me hanging or wanting more. Not a bad read.
Jul 30, 2016 Lainie rated it really liked it
Hard to believe this epic story is the author's first novel. So accomplished.

Recommended if you are a daughter, or a mother, or both.
Randi rated it really liked it
Aug 06, 2013
Mary rated it it was ok
Sep 16, 2010
Jane Weichert
Jane Weichert rated it liked it
Jul 23, 2012
Sarah rated it it was amazing
Oct 21, 2009
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“You've got to breathe! And make the bridge between the top half of your body and the bottom. Between the woman in you who's sweet and tender, and the woman in you who's a bitch.” 3 likes
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