In 1985, 85-year-old Addie Baum sets out to tell her granddaughter the story of her life... and what a life it is.
Addie was born in Boston in the earlIn 1985, 85-year-old Addie Baum sets out to tell her granddaughter the story of her life... and what a life it is.
Addie was born in Boston in the early 1900s to immigrant parents, living in a cold-water tenement apartment in a poor neighborhood, with no money and only the prospect of hard work ahead of her. And yet, Addie manages to create a glorious life for herself. Through the local settlement house, she meets girls her own age as a young teen, and is soon included in their Saturday Club, where she's given the encouragement and support to think, explore, and become the person she wants to be.
The Boston Girl is the first-person narrative of the story of a young Jewish girl's search for independence, education, friendship, and love. We see Addie blossoming as she steps outside of the confines of her family home, creating connections to women that will last her whole life, and jumping into "modern" American life and embracing all it has to offer.
This isn't some sort of flapper story or a tale of an outrageously outsized individual. Addie is a good girl, and smart too. She doesn't break all the rules or flout society's expectations; instead, she uses her brains and her good heart to create for herself the life she wants. She pursues an education when she can afford it, she works hard and is a good daughter, she is loyal to her friends and sees them through rough times. Her mind is open, and while she understands the world of her parents, she's not stuck in it.
My reaction to The Boston Girl? I loved it.
The Boston Girlis a quiet book. There's no major dramatic arc or exciting climax, no life-threatening adventure or thrilling heroics. It's the story of a woman's life, and it reads like exactly what it is: a grandmother telling her granddaughter all the bits and pieces of her past, bringing to life the faces and places that might previously have only been brief mentions in family lore.
Addie's voice is sharp and smart, and also quite funny:
My mother took one look and said it made me look like a meeskeit, ugly. That hurt my feelings and made me so mad, I told her I wasn't going to talk to her unless she used English. And by the way, she knew enough to understand every piece of gossip she heard in the grocery store.
I said it was for her own good. "What if you had an emergency and I wasn't there?"
"So then I'll be dead and you'll be sorry," she said, in Yiddish, of course.
To be honest, I often felt like I was listening to my own grandmother's stories (although a bit hipper and less judgmental!), and perhaps that's why this novel really spoke to me the way it did.
You know, Ava, it's good to be smart, but kindness is more important. Oh dear, another old-lady chestnut to stitch on a sampler. Or maybe one of those cute little throw pillows.
The Boston Girl is a lovely, enjoyable, and quick read. Addie is a wonderful narrator, and hearing her story made me feel like I was being transported to another time. It's a loving tribute to an earlier generation, especially to the teachers, social workers, and social reformers of the 1920s who made so much possible for the generations of women who followed.
This is the sort of book that makes me want to buy copies for at least a handful of family members and friends. There's so much here that people I know will relate to! Especially for those of us who grew up with Jewish grandmothers... but really, for anyone who appreciates learning about the joys and struggles of the women who came of age in the early part of the 20th century, this is a book not to be missed.
This is a hard book to rate. If I could have carved out only parts of the story, I probably would have given this book 4 stars, at least. But given myThis is a hard book to rate. If I could have carved out only parts of the story, I probably would have given this book 4 stars, at least. But given my massive frustrations with large chunks of it, 3 stars is perhaps overly generous.
All I Love and Know is the story of Daniel and Matthew, a loving couple (circa 2003) whose lives are completely turned upside down when Daniel's twin brother and his wife are killed in a Jerusalem suicide bombing, leaving behind two small children. Daniel, in shock and grieving, must also deal with the fact that his brother wanted him to take custody of the children and raise them in the US. A custody battle looms, as the maternal grandparents also want the children, and it's uncertain that the Israeli family court will grant custody to a gay couple.
If this book had focused on Daniel and Matthew's relationship and the unexpected challenges they face, on the plight of the orphaned children and their emotional devastation, on the characters' struggle to form a family and create a life... well, I might have loved this book. The characters are very engaging, and Matthew in particularly is sympathetic and lovely. The aching sadness of bereavement is conveyed so well, and I had to keep reading to see how everyone would fare in the end.
And yet... there is a strident, preachy political nature to this book that brought me *this close* to slamming it shut and walking away, over and over again. The author puts her political views into the characters' mouths incessantly, and it's harsh, one-sided, and -- for me, at least -- VERY hard to take. Which is a shame, because the story does not need all this posturing, and would be much better without.
Really, I have a hard time recommending this book. The human element is so good, and yet the political lecturing is so off-putting that it takes a real effort to get past it and focus on the characters and their lives. This was a decidedly mixed reading experience for me, and I'm not sure that the good outweighs the bad.
A truly beautiful book about a little-known facet of history, focusing on the Jewish community of Yemen in the early 20th century. The writing is lushA truly beautiful book about a little-known facet of history, focusing on the Jewish community of Yemen in the early 20th century. The writing is lush and lovely, and the story itself is moving and compelling. Highly recommended.
I thought I'd love The Imposter Bride. Instead, I liked quite a bit of it, thought the writing was wonderful, but felt that the novel as a whole neverI thought I'd love The Imposter Bride. Instead, I liked quite a bit of it, thought the writing was wonderful, but felt that the novel as a whole never quite came together. The character development is excellent, but the mysteries layered within the story have resolutions that felt too little, too late for me and were overall unsatisfying.
Still, this exploration of loss and identity has plenty of lovely moments, and the grief and searching it presents feel real and intense.
This is a charming graphic novel for middle-age readers, starring an Orthodox Jewish girl who dreams of fighting dragons. With simple text and an unclThis is a charming graphic novel for middle-age readers, starring an Orthodox Jewish girl who dreams of fighting dragons. With simple text and an uncluttered illustration style, "Hereville" is a clever adventure story, a matter-of-fact introduction to Orthodox traditions, a meditation on love and family, and a funny tale of female heroism. The author has also inserted a tiny but clever tribute to the "Bone" graphic novels, which really made me smile....more
This was my favorite book in my teens and early 20's. Eagle in the Sky is part love story, part action-adventure tale, part historical drama. It tellsThis was my favorite book in my teens and early 20's. Eagle in the Sky is part love story, part action-adventure tale, part historical drama. It tells the story of the too-beautiful-for-words, spoiled playboy who finds love and purpose with a mysterious, self-sufficient Israeli woman. When tragedy strikes, they are torn apart and suffer horribly, emotionally and physically. The narrative moves thrillingly from a bull fight in Spain, to fighter jets defending Israel, to a new home in South Africa. The pace never lets up, but ultimately it is the unforgettable love story that makes such a huge impression....more
"Day After Night" is the story of Holocaust survivors, smuggled into Palestine in the time of the British Mandate in 1945, and imprisoned in the Atlit"Day After Night" is the story of Holocaust survivors, smuggled into Palestine in the time of the British Mandate in 1945, and imprisoned in the Atlit internment camp near Haifa. The book follows four main characters, women whose experiences during the Holocaust included concentration camps, fighting as part of the resistance, and forced prostitution. While the book has the ingredients of a moving story, ultimately it falls flat. The characters never truly come to life, and except for rare moments, are fairly interchangeable. "Day After Night" takes place in the months leading up to a large-scale escape of prisoners from Atlit. The climactic break-out should have been exciting and suspenseful. However, as with so much of this book, it felt oversimplified and lacking in real energy. I wanted to be moved by this book, as it covers a piece of Jewish and Israeli history that is little known. Anita Diamant's writing just didn't really work for me, and while I think it worthwhile to bring this era to light, those who are truly interested would be better served by reading an actual history of the time rather than spending time on this so-so novel. ...more
"Incantation" is a lovely, haunting YA novel set during the Spanish Inquisition, focusing on themes of identity, love, and betrayal. The central chara"Incantation" is a lovely, haunting YA novel set during the Spanish Inquisition, focusing on themes of identity, love, and betrayal. The central character, sixteen-year-old Estrella, discovers that her family are actually conversos, Jews forced to convert to Christianity but secretly practicing Judaism at extreme peril to them all. Alice Hoffman's writing is, as always, passionate and full of the mysteries of love and human nature. "Incantation" is a tragic story, but leaves the door open to hope and the possibility of a better life. Recommended for teens as an introduction to the historical era in which it's set, as well as a good starting point for discussions of loyalty, family, and self; also recommended for adults looking for a quick but deep read. ...more
People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks, is a multi-layered masterpiece, combining historical fiction with a well-thought-out, perfect-for-book-loversPeople of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks, is a multi-layered masterpiece, combining historical fiction with a well-thought-out, perfect-for-book-lovers mystery. The framework of the book is the investigation of book conservator Hanna Heath into the origins of the 500-year-old Sarajevo Haggadah. As she pores through the priceless book, she discovers tiny clues to its past, including an insect wing stuck in the binding, mysterious stains on several pages, and a single white hair. As Hanna uses scientific techniques to unlock the book's secrets, the reader is treated to alternating chapters which slowly reveal the origins of the Haggadah. These backstory chapters move backward in time, each telling a complete story in itself, spanning hundreds of years of history including the Bosnian war, Sarajevo during WWII, the Jewish ghetto in Venice, and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. The author creates compelling characters for each time period, united across time by their heart-breaking experiences of war and persecution. By the end, Hanna's knowledge and perceptions of the book, and of her own life, are enriched and deepened, and the reader has had both an emotional and intellectual treat....more