It's hard to objectively rate (or review) a book you've read since it was age appropriate. As an adult I'd probably give it a star less, but when I fiIt's hard to objectively rate (or review) a book you've read since it was age appropriate. As an adult I'd probably give it a star less, but when I first got this book I thought it was wonderful, and read it many times. Having holocaust literature coming at me from every angle for as long as I can remember, the story felt unremarkable (I feel so horrible saying that!) though now I see that she had some fairly miraculous experiences and with 20/20 hindsight I always wondered why the people in the story made the risky choices that they did.
As an adult I question the author's decision to write in present-tense and can only imagine it comes either from a constant reliving of her traumatic ordeal, or an immigrant's inability to express herself and her experiences in competent past tense (though I suspect her reasoning lay in the former.)
I would have preferred that her story be told in more of a religious context, but that's just my preference and obviously it would be ludicrous to expect it. The author's funny habit of not mentioning characters and long-standing important relationship to them until they have an interaction with the reader (at which point she goes back and explains their importance) left me feeling that the book was not ENTIRELY well thought out. Kind of like this review....more
My point of comparison for this book was a book I read many times as a young teen; The Endless Steppe: Growing Up in Siberia. Beyond the Ice Curtain wMy point of comparison for this book was a book I read many times as a young teen; The Endless Steppe: Growing Up in Siberia. Beyond the Ice Curtain was longer, meant for a more mature, and more religiously inclined audience. Since I am now older and more religiously inclined, it would make sense that I'd prefer this book at my current stage in life. But I don't.
The book wasn't horrible. If that sounds like a poor recommendation, keep reading. Dina Grabel was older than Esther Hautzig was at the time of her exile, and although their stories had a great deal of overlap in similar experiences, Grabel had a more varied experience, with more transitions, during her time in Siberia.
I found Grabel's memoir to be informative, and at times very interesting. At other times (fewer and far between than the interesting ones) it did tend to plod along. The interesting bits definitely outweighed and justified the reading of the non-interesting bits, it's just that I wish they could have been eliminated. Particularly the flash-backs which seemed out of place could have been put in chronological order for greater interest. The writing style overall wasvery typical of frummy non-fiction literature, and nothing to write home about.
Another thing that stood out for me was Grabel's name dropping. I suppose some readers will find it fascinating that she and her family socialized with some prominent rabbinic personalities, and again, some charming anecdotes were certainly worth mentioning, but I found the name dropping to be both irritating and counter to the modesty that a woman of her religious upbringing surely would have internalized.
Something that stood out to me was the way in which Grabel's family's financial situation before the war seemed to cushion her experience for her a bit, something I don't think the author particularly grasps. I have never been through such hardship, and would never belittle her experience, but logically, an acknowledgement of her possessions and the roads they paved for her would be worthy of noting, and yet such a mention is conspicuously absent. I also found her description of peoples' riches to be vying for attention from her descriptions of their piety.
I have a great deal of respect for the author and her family, both for the hardships they encountered and the choices that they made.
I just didn't find the ride along with them as enjoyable as it could have been....more
This book was introduced as a tribute to Greenhut's late mother, but ended up being, in large part, a personal memoir. The book is entitled to be bothThis book was introduced as a tribute to Greenhut's late mother, but ended up being, in large part, a personal memoir. The book is entitled to be both, but the foreword and title are in contradiction of each other, and this was irritating to me. The editing left something to be desired, as certain chapters seemed to end too abruptly, as if the author tired of writing them and just wanted to finish before a deadline or as soon as possible, while others dragged on.
Greenhut's mother's generosity was exemplary and that was inspirational, and of course it tends to be interesting to peer into the lives of others, but there wasn't really anything special about this book, it was pretty run-of the mill.
As an aside, and, I didn't change my rating of the book because of this, the following quote particularly hit a nerve.
"Overnight, I had become quite plump. The word "diet" was not new to me. In our town, almost all the mothers were overweight. Matronly, it was called.They were always talking about starting a diet tomorrow. The standards for acceptable weight, though, were different from those of today. Chayah Sarah, who was tall, slim and beautiful, was thought skinny. After her first baby was born, she remained with fifteen extra pounds, and people said, "Now she could enter a beauty contest." (p.72-3)
She herself has bought into mainstream modern views of beauty, even though she remembers a time when things were different. This is particularly frustrating as she's bought the lie line, hook, and sinker. UGH.
EDIT: Boy, do I have a chip on my shoulder. Totally misread the quote. Backtrack time!...more
It was a memoir, in typical memoir style. It was vaguely interesting but didn't make me think very much, or challenge me in any way. I guess I'm not eIt was a memoir, in typical memoir style. It was vaguely interesting but didn't make me think very much, or challenge me in any way. I guess I'm not enough of a foodie to have properly enjoyed this book, which, in my opinion, reeked of mediocrity....more
I know this author is held in pretty high esteem but my first impression of this book, which held to the very end, was that anyone who can publish a bI know this author is held in pretty high esteem but my first impression of this book, which held to the very end, was that anyone who can publish a book criticizing their family members, especially their parents, without showing due cause and a drop of compassion for their position must be a pretty emotionally unhealthy person.
I feel bad for her. She suffered abuse that no one should have to suffer. But casting such a harsh light on her parents, especially on her mother, makes me want to scream "Put on your big-girl panties and quit your whining!" I hope her children are capable of viewing her more favorably than than she does her mother, because I'm not....more
This was a quick read! Pleasant and enjoyable, and quite interesting to see how this one family faced the prejudices of their time in a practical, matThis was a quick read! Pleasant and enjoyable, and quite interesting to see how this one family faced the prejudices of their time in a practical, matter-of-fact way, and how they came to that reality.
It also made me realize the extent to which the housewife's life was governed by day-to-day chores, especially with children and without the benefit of modern conveniences like appliances and disposable diapers. It made me wonder where all my time goes, and inspired me to find more of it. An added bonus to reading this book....more
Yes, it's true. I'm a bad person. I judge books by their covers. And when I saw this lying on my friend's shelf during her moving sale, it was screamiYes, it's true. I'm a bad person. I judge books by their covers. And when I saw this lying on my friend's shelf during her moving sale, it was screaming "READ ME!" even before I got close enough to read the title.
It was ok.
Having taught children with autism, and having much experience with Asperger's and people on the spectrum, this book wasn't much of a surprise. The voice was typically an Asperger's voice and the stories were typical memoir "I was abused as a child" stories.
The stories were interesting and it made for a pleasant, quick read, but with all the literature out there, unless you're looking to expose yourself to "on-the-ground-running" knowledge of Asperger's (which, for most people, will be the case with this book) you're not going to have a particularly Earth-shattering experience.
But look. It's a memoir. It's interestingly written, there were some memorable stories and quotes...
This was another quick read, a charming, honest look at a relationship between 2 sisters, and the ways in which we can learn from everyone if we openThis was another quick read, a charming, honest look at a relationship between 2 sisters, and the ways in which we can learn from everyone if we open our eyes.
The book was well written and enjoyable, one of those Chicken Soup for the Soul type reads. It was a bit predictable but still a pleasant way to pass the time.
It isn't nice to say it, especially about a memoir that is bearing someone's soul and airing their life's dirty laundry (albeit for good and generous reasons) but I felt really bad for many of the people in this story, in terms of both what they had to go through, and their ways of looking at the world.
That made me feel a bit smug and obnoxious, but then, I have been very blessed to have such good people in my life....more
I have been a fan of Roald Dahl's childrens' literature for years, so I was eager to read this collection...and it was horrifying.
Certainly there wereI have been a fan of Roald Dahl's childrens' literature for years, so I was eager to read this collection...and it was horrifying.
Certainly there were stories that were of interest, and most of them were well written, but creepy doesn't even begin to describe them. The stories were brilliant but highly disturbing, and it somewhat ruined my ability to appreciate the previous works I had read by this talented but twisted author....more
Well, this was interesting. The book reads like to separate pieces. Approximately the first half of the book is told in chronological order, relatingWell, this was interesting. The book reads like to separate pieces. Approximately the first half of the book is told in chronological order, relating Gil's spiritual search. The second half is short anecdotes, in no particular order, about his life (and sometimes adventures) as a religious Jew.
This book doesn't really fit into a particular genre. Locks tells of his spiritual search in an almost emotionless and detached manner. He relates his stories as a set of facts, and while it is certainly an interesting story, one isn't carried along emotionally with him on his journey. The reader is more of an outside spectator, taking note of all that goes on.
As Locks speaks of his Jewish life, however, he shows a bit more passion. I don't know that he portrays this passion to the Nth degree, but he certainly makes clear his enthusiasm for the life that he has chosen.
Locks is an interesting character, and it shows in his writing. He is unapologetic for his beliefs and his lifestyle throughout, although he does express regret about certain aspects of his past. He is a fellow who seems drawn to extremes, and who likes to be intensely involved in people and situations. This creates an atmosphere in his life that surely provides for the occurrence of the many (true) tales in this book, and leaves the reader with what are probably strong, yet possibly conflicting, opinions about its author.
There were several passages that stood out at me for various reasons and I'd like to share them here. (These passages were all culled from the second half of the book, as they related more to my day-to-day thoughts and experiences. But that doesn't imply a lack of interest in the first half of the book. On the contrary, the first half was a real trip!)
Without further ado...
"I've seen so many lives turn around from the spiritual experience that can come from putting on Tefillin (phylacteries) at the Kotel (Western Wall)...Certainly, if we would try the spiritual things with at least the same intensity and anticipation that we try the physical things, our lives would change quickly." (p. 230) This was really food for thought. Even someone who is committed to pursuing a spiritual life can easily be distracted by the physical details and lose sight of the goal. Spiritual pleasures are worth so much more, and we have to work for anything worthwhile in life. The pursuit of spirituality is not ingrained on our surface the way our search for physical pleasure is. (See Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs)
Inconsiderateness is a definite sign of spiritual ignorance. When you see someone...tying his shoelace...by putting his shoe on a chair, you can bet he is a very self-centered, narrow thinker. Certainly, someone is going to come sit on that chair...and sit right in the filth that was on the bottom of the other guy's shoe." (p. 272) A person's character should not judged by one mistake, which, out of context, this quote seems to falsely imply. Locks does make an important point here, however - a spiritually aware and elevated person looks out for other people and their needs. [This, I think, is in direct contrast to his previous experiences of 'enlightenment' in which the spiritual person is withdrawn from the world and not concerned with the happenings and people around him.]
Torah practice eliminates intermarriage. The ultra-Orthodox have but a tiny percentage of children who intermarry. The Modern Orthodox, who keep all of the laws but not all of the customs, have a much greater percentage of children who drop out and intermarry." (p. 337) Although this is not his point, he seems to imply here that ultra-Orthodox DO keep all of the customs of the Torah, and that this is the defining difference between ultra- and Modern Orthodox. I wouldn't say I agree that this is the case in practice, but perhaps in theory it holds some truth. An interesting theory. I just finished reading Sliding to the Right: The Contest for the Future of American Jewish Orthodoxy which speaks a great deal about these two communities and the blurred line and distinction between them, as well as the relationship these 2 communities have. I'm not sure Heilman, author of Sliding to the Right, would agree with Locks' assessment, but it is something interesting to ponder.
Anyway, this was a quick and entertaining read with enough solid content (in my opinion) to justify the time spent reading. It has both entertainment and real messages of value, so although perhaps not the best book under the sun, I would say anyone Jewish would benefit from reading this book. (And perhaps non-Jews would enjoy it as well.)
Oh, and one more thing. I really liked his idea of the "Bum-packs." But you'll have to read the book to learn about those. ...more
This is another one of those "I judged a book by its cover" books. Maybe I should stop doing that, but it's reads like this one that keep the shady haThis is another one of those "I judged a book by its cover" books. Maybe I should stop doing that, but it's reads like this one that keep the shady habit going. I'm not going to say this was the best book I ever picked up, nor was it what I expected (more of a treatise on gender or something along those lines) but it was an enjoyable and intelligent series of essays that kept me entertained and made for a light, yet un-fluffy read. Some essays were more enjoyable than others, some were more relevant than others, and I kind of wondered if there was some sort of overall point, but generally, thumbs up.
If I didn't already own so many good books that have clear points, this would be a definite keeper. I'm debating it's right to earn a permanent spot on my already crammed bookshelf - it's enjoyable enough to read again and lend out, but would I gain something of substance by keeping it around? Unsure....more
Although not particularly well written, it was a quick, easy read that didn't seem lacking for what it was. The stories were saddening and eye-openingAlthough not particularly well written, it was a quick, easy read that didn't seem lacking for what it was. The stories were saddening and eye-opening. I don't think I'm going to be so quick to let my children out of my sight after this one.
As a side note, there was a chapter and a half that dealt with the "Haredim" and it seemed to be a more fair portrayal than the general media coverage....more
Ok, granted the Duggars used this book as an opportunity for missionizing, which was not entirely what I was looking for (as a Jewish person.) The wriOk, granted the Duggars used this book as an opportunity for missionizing, which was not entirely what I was looking for (as a Jewish person.) The writing also was not superb. However, getting past those 2 major flaws, the book was actually a fascinating read about the reality of raising children and functioning financially and on a daily basis with an incredibly large family. There are tools and tips that the reader can carry away to use in real life (though the food they eat is atrociously unhealthy) and it was interesting to learn about their atypical religious beliefs and practices.
This was my second time through this book, so perhaps my impressions are slightly skewed. After all, I remember reading it and LOVING it, but none ofThis was my second time through this book, so perhaps my impressions are slightly skewed. After all, I remember reading it and LOVING it, but none of the details seemed to stick, so the point where each page brought new surprises.
The beginning of the book entirely lived up to my (admittedly high) expectations. Towards the middle, when the author starts recounting her teenage years and early adulthood, things seemed to start heading downhill. The writing, which I'd found brilliantly light-hearted, charming, and entertaining, became suddenly a caricature of itself, as if the author was turning verbal summer-saults to keep the reader entertained, as the story in and of itself was not enough to keep you interested.
I enjoyed the book nonetheless, but found it to be a bit too needlessly obscene and crass for my taste. A friend gave me her old copy as a gift, and I was really excited. After giving the book another whirl-through, I'm ready to pass it along....more