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Sima's Undergarments for Women

3.22 of 5 stars 3.22  ·  rating details  ·  707 ratings  ·  176 reviews
In a hidden bra shop in Brooklyn, one woman's fifty-year-old secret comes unhooked.

There are some life-long quests that all women have in common-meaningful work, true love, and a bra that doesn't leave red marks on your skin. With a gracefulness evocative of Amy Bloom and Alice McDermott, prizewinning writer Ilana Stanger-Ross has created a secret underground New York si...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published February 5th 2008 by Overlook Hardcover
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,233)
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K
There’s a social situation which has always interested me, both in life and in literature. It’s when a person, usually older and more competent in one or more ways, takes a younger and more vulnerable person under his wing, motivated at least as much by his own desire for a protégée as by genuine interest in the younger person’s perceived need. Of course, the relationship goes awry. Janice Erlbaum’s memoir “Have You Seen Her?” is a great description of such a situation; the novel “What Was She T...more
Jlaurenmc
Reading Ilana Stanger-Ross's debut novel Sima's Undergarments for Women is an exercise in anxiety, primarily because the reader is so thoroughly immersed in main character Sima Goldner's uncertain, self-conscious thoughts. Sima is one of the most skillfully developed characters to enter the world of fiction in a long time. Stanger-Ross writes in third-person narrative, but the novel's voice is so completely Sima's that it seems as though she narrates herself. The marginal distance third-person p...more
Kalen
*** 1/2

I liked this one fine but not as much as I'd hoped to (I guess that's always the case.... why would we pick up books we might just like "okay"?) I don't know why, but I expected it to be funny rather than sad. The characters are well-developed and the plot is solid. It's anything but funny.

Sima is a complex character and I liked her much in the same way I liked Olive Kitteridge--I didn't always like her actions and thoughts, but you know that deep down inside is someone who is looking fo...more
Chrystyna
May 02, 2010 Chrystyna rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: no one
Didn't like this book at all. The main character, Sima, was creepy to me. She was an older Jewish woman in NYC that had an undegarment business in her basement. There is nothing creepy about that. But she becomes totally obsessed with a young woman, Timna, from Israel who works for her. We hear in detail Sima describe Timna's figure, beauty, breasts and Sima even goes so far as to follow Timna around to see what she is up to. Sounds like a stalker to me. Although Sima is childless and we think t...more
Nicole
There are books that you just don't like, and then there are books that are made all the worse because you expected them to be something different and uplifting, and when they turn out to be unhappy, it's that much worse. This was one of those books. For some reason I expected this to be a story of empowerment, a story about repressed women that come together to create lingerie and find their self worth.
Instead it is a story of a bitter old woman who tries to control her beautiful, young employe...more
Valerie
I'm not sure why I was expecting more SHOCKING secret/s to be revealed... Didn't really happen, and it left me wanting more (or less...)
This was a simple, sort of sad look into the life of an older, somewhat bitter woman, Sima who feels life has passed her by (both in and outside of her bra/lingerie shop (that I'd LOVE to visit, btw!) She becomes totally obsessed by the young Israeli woman, Timna, who stops into her store and winds up working for her. It was almost painful to see the sad, semi-s...more
Tara Chevrestt
May 12, 2010 Tara Chevrestt rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommended to Tara by: Janet
Shelves: arc
I just didn't get this. Some old lady who has a bran store in her basement is obsessed with a new young chick that is working for her. It's not lesbian or even remotely erotic. It's just WEIRD. Either the old lady was jealous of the chick and wanted to BE her or perhaps she thought the girl was the daughter she never had. I lost interest and didn't care to find out.
Dee
What a gripping book.. Sima is an older Jewish woman in New York. She has never had any children. She manages a shop in her basement that sells undergarments to women. She offers excellent fitting skills and quality products. Her husband, Lev, is a retired teacher. When the seamstress leaves, she encounters a new, young Jewish woman, Timna, recently arrived in the U.S. from Israel. She's also an able seamstress. Timna becomes like a daughter to Sima. The history of this woman's life defines her...more
Alex
I was expecting a lot more from this book. It is competently written but not exceptional, and the characters are not terribly interesting. I liked the Brooklyn setting, but didn't get a huge emotional catharsis from the plot. It was also quite slow in parts.
Kimberlee
The one I came to read this book is interesting. Our public library in February sponsored an 18 year old + "Date Night with a Book". The books were wrapped in paper bags, with notes on them that started, "Desperately seeking a reader who appreciates ...". The wrapper on this book continued, "graceful, unselfconscious, and very funny". The books were free. I thought this program novel and I hope to do it again next year.

As to "Sima's", I found the book too subtle for me. What I appreciated about...more
Laurie
In the network of basement shops that serve Brooklyn's neighborhoods, Sima Goldner runs a lingerie shop renowned among locals for superior bra fitting. When Sima hires a young Israeli woman to be her new assistant, she begins an exciting new friendship. Timna, the new employee, reminds Sima of the opportunities and excitement of her youth. But these memories are not entirely welcome, and Sima is reminded of the disappointments of her own youth. Infertility left Sima and her husband childless, an...more
Mark
This was a very entertaining read, about a woman whose youthful indiscretion had burdened her with a lifetime of guilt and shame and had caused her marriage to wither. Sima had insulated herself from the pain of her barren life by retreating into her refuge, a basement lingerie shop where she sold comfort and dispensed wisdom to her loyal customers. Enter a beautiful young Israeli immigrant, Timna, who goes to work for Sima and shakes Sima out of her complacency and teaches her to embrace life o...more
Susan
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kathy (Bermudaonion)
By all appearances, Sima Goldner has it all - a thriving business and a solid marriage, but she's missing the one thing she wanted the most - a child. When she didn't conceive early in her marriage to Lev, Sima went to a fertility specialist and discovered that her fallopian tubes were blocked because of a mistake she made as a sixteen year old. When a young Israeli, Timna, enters her life - first as a customer and then as an employee - things change for Sima. Sima is fascinated by Timna, almost...more
Joanne
How I came to pick up an "unrevised and unpublished proof" of this book at a book exchange in one of the RV Parks we have stayed in would have to be the cover - a woman with a tape measure encircling her head and blinding (bounding) her eyes. Perhaps the woman's very sturdy, pointy bra and the cherry apple red background helped get me hooked! I enjoyed being immersed in a culture not well known to me through this story about Sima, the owner of a lingerie shop in a Jewish section of Brookyn. Sima...more
Diane
In Sima's Undergarments for Women, Sima Goldner is a 65 year old woman, who runs a lingerie shop out of the basement of her Brooklyn home, which she shares with her husband, Lev of 46 years.

(Chapter 1- first paragraph......

"SIMA SURPRISED HERSELF BY BLUSHING AT THE ROUND perfection of the young woman's breasts. For thirty-five years, after all, breasts had been her business: she knew the slight curve of the preteen breast, its nipple rigid when unveiled in the cool air of her basement shop; the...more
Deborah
Probably somewhere round 3.7 stars for me. Well written and almost unsympathetically written at times, and I suspect that's why some readers have such a problem with Sima. She has become a bitter person but I love the way her story unfolds little by little, through a mixture of flashbacks and conversations with customers and friends. As an infertility sufferer myself I had no problems relating to Sima - almost no friends or family have a clue how to deal with it in the 21st century so in the 60s...more
Tonya
I was sure I would enjoy this book before I got it, and I am so utterly thrilled I got to read it. Ilana Stanger - Ross hit the mark. Sima is a married woman, unable to have children. She has an undergarmet store in her basement, just like many of her neighbors who have stores out of their basements. It is what she is. One day a young woman comes into the store. Sima was taken by her beauty. This woman comes back, and asks for a job as the seamstress. Timna ends up feeling like a daughter to Sim...more
Marie
In Sima's Undergarments for Women, Sima runs a lingerie shop from the basement of her home. One day Tinma wanders in to buy a bra, but stays on as a seamstress when she learns that Sima is hiring. Tinma's youth and beauty also allow her to model some of the merchandize for the customers. Together, Sima and Tinma forge a friendship that takes on different forms throughout the book. The story of their friendship is interspersed with memories of Sima's life, her relationship with her husband, Lev,...more
Alicia
"Suma's Undergarments for Women" was a book that I picked up in a bargain bin at my school's book store for $1. It is possibly one of the best deals I have ever made. This novel is a small gem that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. The setting is a basement in a small Jewish community in New York City. Sima, the owner, is a shrewd woman who is able to tell a woman's bra size with just a glance. Sima lives a functional, if not dysfunctional, life with her husband Lev. In her mid-sixties, married at a...more
Louise
Sima Goldner owns and operates a bra shop in the basement of the home she shares with her husband Lev. Lev, a retired teacher spends his days reading the newspaper from cover-to-cover and drinking coffee. Sima teaches the women who frequent her shop, located in the Orthodox Jewish neighbourhood, how to look at their bodies differently and to appreciate what they have no matter what their size is. But Sima is still ashamed of herself for making a mistake when she was sixteen-years-old which resul...more
Donna LaValley
Sima has owned and operated her Undergarments For Women store for decades, but is stunned by the perfect beauty of a young woman's breasts and can't help ogling them. This young Israeli woman soon begins working in the shop as a temporary seamstress and the reader thinks... hmm, where is this going? Is it a lovely, warm, December-May female friendship, or a late-blooming lesbian awakening for the 60-something shop owner?

The cover of my edition, and the lighter tone of the first chapters (except...more
Catherine
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Linda Pressman
Even though I believe that the cover of this book and the blurb try to make light of a book that is, at times, kind of gloomy and a sad tale, I enjoyed reading it and felt the writing was good.

My favorite parts were set in the lingerie store with the march of female humanity and the wisdom of Sima, the shopkeeper, advising them on the importance of a well-fitted bra and good undergarments. I loved the contrast of the Orthodox women and Sima, who had slid away from her Judaism, just as I enjoyed...more
Deirdre
I love love love this book, I couldn't put it down! It's beautifully written, alternating the humor and the tragedy of lives lived. Stanger-Ross has crafted rich, genuine characters - I felt Sima's silent emotional struggle as though it were my own, while Timna felt like so many young women I have known.

Sima is a local wonder in her tiny basement lingerie shop, where "in a glance she could see their size, the back and the cup combined. '36-D,' she'd say ... In vain the women protested, 'but I'm...more
Carly
This is a story of a woman who struggled with her desire for a child and the guilt of her innocent teenage encounter which left her barren. Sima struggled with her own womanhood, but found a way to help others appreciate their bodies by selling good quality well fitting lingerie to the mostly very plain Jewish women of Boro Park. She kept her truth and guilt of her teenage sexual encounter a secret until a beautiful young woman appeared in her shop and began to help her see the flaws in her own...more
Elizabeth
Mar 25, 2014 Elizabeth rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: women looking at feminist issues
Shelves: women
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Teena in Toronto
Sima doesn't have much of a life other than serving her customers (she can tell you want your bra size is just by looking at you!), yelling at her retirement husband and hanging out occasionally with her childhood pal, Connie.

Alas, it is her own fault.

She carries the bitterness of not being able to have children and has let it control her live.

There is a saying that applies here ... people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.

Timna definitely enters Sima's life for a reason a...more
Nesa Sivagnanam
Whether they're looking for demi-cup bras or full-body girdles, for more than thirty years women of all ages have come to Sima Goldner's shop. Tucked away in a basement deep in the orthodox Jewish neighbourhood of Boro Park, New York, the tiny store is a community treasure -- a place to congregate, commiserate and buy new lingerie.

With her sharp and experienced eye, Sima can size up a woman in an instant, and with a stitch, some underwire, and a few words of encouragement, her customers leave th...more
Aviva
I just finished this book today. Actually it only took me two days to read. Sima is the owner of a basement shop in Boro Park that sells lingerie. Boro Park an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn. Sima's childless and unhappy. Timna is an Israeli woman who needs a job while she waits for her boyfriend to finish his stint in the Israeli military. The two hit it off and their relationship hits more than a few notes of codependency. Sima's marriage has become loveless and she pretty openly liv...more
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