The River Midnight
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The River Midnight

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3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  437 ratings  ·  68 reviews
Listen. You can hear the excitement in the village square, the flimsy stalls piled high with everything, and in the center Misha the midwife laughing. She holds safe all the secrets of the village, including the name of the man who has fathered her unborn child.When Misha was a girl she danced in the woods with her friends, the four vilda hayas, the wild creatures as they...more
Hardcover, 414 pages
Published January 11th 1999 by Scribner Book Company (first published 1999)
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Dawn (& Ron)
Jun 21, 2012 Dawn (& Ron) rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in Jewish life, lost cultures, early 20th century
I really didn't know what to expect with this read, but found myself swept away to a different time and place and enchanted by the lost shtetl culture. It had a feeling that I can only describe as a realistic fairytale, blending real life with folk lore, history with spirituality, connecting the past with the future, and mixing it all together with warmth, humor, love and a touch of magic. I can only imagine how it would resonate with those whose ancestors may have come from a shtetl community.

I...more
Sonia Gomes
As a young person I have read books about Jews in Europe during WWII, their lives filled me with such sorrow, it still does, but did I ever think of them as 'people'. No, never, I only thought of them as victims of a terrible war.
And then comes Nattel, with her beautiful book, a tiny village with each character a special person, each character narrating their life in a special voice. Was it boring that every person told the same story? No chance, there are so many layers to each episode, so man...more
Anastasia
Mar 06, 2008 Anastasia rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: feminists, those interested in Jewish history
I really liked this book. Wonderful character pieces all set in the same village (or shtetl-- a new word I learned) in a common time period. It was neat to read about various quotidian events from the perspectives of a variety of characters. Loved Misha the midwife!
Brenda
This is a book I found a bit slow to start, could very well have been my state of mind. However, when I finished the book I actually missed the characters. If you find it slow, don't give up!!!
Ellen
Before starting this review I read a few other reviews that shared my feelings. I was charmed by this book of Polish shtettle life in the nineteenth century. What I loved most about this tale was the way the story is woven together from the perspectives of the various characters. Sometimes events are retold, each time from the point of view of the different shtettle character. This gives the work greater depth and allows the reader to understand the events more fully than would have been otherwi...more
Linh
I must confess, I am quite undecided as to how I feel about "River Midnight".

On one hand, I find it interesting how the story unravels with the addition of each person's story. The reader gains insight into their views, thoughts and knowledge of the events unfolding as it relates to them.

On the other hand, I felt somewhat annoyed throughout the book to have to read the same story over and over again, from what feels like the beginning.

As I get to the end of the book, I find that there isn't a s...more
Bev
I loved this book -- a mixture of magic, mystery and history, set in the fictional Polish town of Blaszka in 1894. I couldn't stop hearing music from Fiddler on the Roof, as the lives of the women and their families unfold in terrible times. The layering of the narrative is very effective; the story is picked up and told from different perspectives, repeating and filling in missing details as the central story becomes clearer with each point of view.
Susan
This is an unusual book. First it is set in 1893. Second it is set in a small Jewish village in Poland. Add to this that the story is told multiple times from various perspectives and you have a very interesting tale. This book is a work of historical fiction set in a non-existent village along a non-existent river but it is based on the history Poland in the late 19th century.

This writer has the gift of tone and setting much like Laura Ingalls Wilder. By the time you have read the first page yo...more
Sharon
This was a great debut novel by Nattel. It takes place in the late 19th century in a small Jewish shtetl in Poland. The story was thought provoking, as most of my experience in that genre was during the World War II era. There is a lengthy glossary which helps with many of the Yiddish workds, although you can follow the story easily through the word's context.

This is a story of the friendship of 4 strong women and how they grew up and apart from each other (in some ways.) It is the kind of story...more
Stephanie(zosime)
I loved this book! It is beautiful and human and completely enchanting. Each chapter follows a different character's life over the same period of time. While this could result in a tedious re-telling of the same events over and over again, each person's life is so unique that the overlapping moments are subtle and often brilliant. Even a major event which affects the entire shtetl looks different each time depending on how it impacts an individual's life. Conversations between two characters can...more
Elizabeth
This was a beautiful book. I really enjoy "Jewish literature", if you will. I just feel tied to it at such a core level. I'm sure this has to do with ancestry on my paternal side. This story was fascinating. It covered the same few months but from many different people's perspective and with each new perspective we also gained insight into their past and future. The story felt almost tangible to me, like I was holding different pieces in my hand...weaving it into something beautiful yet practica...more
Eileen
From the perspective of descending from women like this, in small towns and villages of Poland, this was a fascinating story to read. The plot was interesting - lots of interwoven personal stories in a vignette of village life, with good character development. It wasn't an edge of your seat thriller by any means and though it took me a seriously long time to read, when I did read it, I plowed through pages wondering what could possibly come ahead, simultaneously wondering why it had me intrigued...more
Linda Hali
Such a beautiful book - History/folkore/realtionships of shtetl life with a retelling of events one after the other from male/female/angel perspective. Timelessness of this tiny village (turn of 20th C Poland) is running against sophisticated intellecutal and industrial change in big city Poland and the Labor Movement in NYC. Time for a reread. I always find it particularly moving to read over the High Holiday season. It has a wonderful spiritual wake up within the story.This was a first novel-...more
Esther
I loved this book. It took a while to get in to it and some parts I read more slowly than others but it was truly enjoyable.
There was a little suspense that urged towards the end but mostly I enjoyed the gentle Jewish rhythm, getting to know all the characters in the village according to the festivals of the year. My favourite characters were Haim and Alta-Fruma but I would be happy to meet all the people of Blaszka, especially the women.
The best way I can describe this book is to say that it is...more
Momma
amazing, i loved it
Nicole
Jun 06, 2007 Nicole rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone that likes fiction where the women are powerful
Shelves: fiction
I read this for a gender relations class, and I just reread it recently (2007). I love the way it tells the same story from the perspective of all characters, and how it separates them into a woman's and man's section. It's gender binary just like the society they live in. This binary is explored throughout the book, in 1800s (I think) Poland. There's one really strong female character who defies conventions and is wonderful.
Cathie
This was a difficult book to read because of the jumping back and forth across time. There was a lot of repetition in order to help the reader determine where they were in time. I realized even as I read this that there was a point to writing this way, but it was still annoying and made for a slow read. However, the ending made it all worth it. Great ending, great writing, and a great point.
Ruth
Good story, like a Chagall painting come to life. The problem with it is that there are too many points of view and parts of the book are confusing. The beginning and the last 100 or so pages (which I'm on now) are pretty good, but going through the middle wasn't always a pleasure. But its worth picking up if you're interested in reading about a shtlel in Poland in the late 19th century.
Kristine Morris
Nattle writes about the events of the year 1894 in a Jewish town in Poland - each section from the perspective of a different character. Each story neatly interwoven with the others. This book along with Galore by Michael Crummey joins myth with reality which I really like. I also like that even this is a Canadian author the book was not depressing. What a pleasant surprise!
Rochelle
I loved this book, but then, I love Judaic novels. The characters in this book came to life for me, both the "then" and the "now.". I read it several years ago, and I want to read it again. My 70-year-old mind remembers a Golem (Golem stories always grab me!) which hasn't been referred to directly in reviews, so I feel the need to return to Blaszka to find him myself.
sarah
While I have read books about Jews in Europe during WWII, I hadn't ever read a novel about times previous to that. I liked how this book told the same story from three perspectives: the women, the men and the midwife. Perhaps it was good that I read this just prior to going to a birth. It reminded me that humor sometimes helps in the very last bit.
Elizabeth
This is the second time I've read this book, and while it still holds up, has great historical detail and characters, I found myself a little bored with the structure this time. I skipped most of the men's chapters and skipped right to Misha the midwife, my favorite character. Satisfying, but I think I will pass this book onto someone else now.
Mollie
An interesting book covering the same year but each section is written from several different perspectives from people in a Polish Jewish village. Great commentary on assumption, coming of age, the struggles within friendships, marriage, and people living in close proximity.

A great book.

Some sex discussions and difficult situations.
L.G. Surgeson
Clever evocative and somewhat bemusing - an excellent combination. The same tale told from 3 sides, and each reading more illuminating than the next and yet not to the point of the obvious. Everything seems run of the mill until the last section. This is one of those books that you read and instantly want to lend to people.
Lorraine
I enjoyed this story of life in a Russian shtetl (Jewish village)late in the 19th century more than I expected. It had an interesting story, less predictable than I'd feared, and the writing was quite good. It was also interesting for revealing the everyday customs and attitudes of that place and time and culture.
Katy
OK, so I never even finished it. Seeing how it's been at least 3 months now, I'm giving up. I like the idea of the book and the characters are interesting, but I guess it's the writing that I can't get in to. I can't say I recommend it, but I am curious what someone else thinks about this book.
Spacecat888
I read this several years ago, and promptly forgot the title and author, although the plot stood out significantly! The first novel I ever read that used overlapping viewpoints-- the same events in a small Jewish village in Poland as seen by different characters. A very intriguing story!
Bree Hobgood
Jun 26, 2010 Bree Hobgood rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lauren
Recommended to Bree by: Mom
I might call this a 4.25 or 4.5. It was really a delightful read. Set in a Jewish shtetl in Poland in the late 1800s, it follows a group of men and women and their transformations over a year. Mystical, yet realistic, this is a book I definitely recommend....especially to Lauren!
Melissa
I might give this 3 1/2 stars really. Interesting portrait of life in a Polish shtetl. The way the same story is told over and over from different characters was interesting and well done. I also liked how the chapters ended with an overview of the future.
Sarah
Absolutely beautiful prose...a lovely description of shtetl life in Poland at the turn of the 20th century. Weaves seamlessly from one character's perspective to another's, turning out a wonderfully rich narration of life in one tiny Jewish village.
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160794
Women's friendship and courage, the way history unfolds in the present, and the redemptive power of sharing secrets - these are my themes. I see literature as a partnership between author and reader. I put my vision on the page and you, the reader, bring to it your own perceptions, experiences and insight. Together we create a new book with each read. And this journey together can continue through...more
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