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The Tin Horse

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  2,270 ratings  ·  391 reviews
For fans of the beloved classic A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, a sweeping, multi-generational story about twin sisters, one of whom disappears without a trace in 1939, set in the historically Jewish neighborhood of Boyle Heights, California, and modern-day Los Angeles.

After years of resistance to the idea, feisty octogenarian Elaine Greenstein finally decides to move from the h
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published January 29th 2013 by Random House (first published 2013)
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Average rating 3.73  · 
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 ·  2,270 ratings  ·  391 reviews

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Retired Reader
This book was a flop for me. I would've given it one star but I did enjoy learning about the real-life Jewish community Boyle Heights in California in the 1930's. There are so many unlikeable characters, and so much thoughtless betrayal in this family. The ending I was waiting for was accomplished in just a few final pages and I'm like, what the hell? That's it? Bah, I won't say much more to prevent spoilers but the end made me furious. I don't expect every story to end happily but this was just ...more
Mar 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Wow, I've lost a friend now that I've finished! I feel like I was sitting in this elderly woman's living room listening to the story of her life, and I ate up every word. Gripping fiction, but could have been non-fiction, it was so believable. Elaine Greenstein grew up Jewish in LA of the 20's and 30's with a fraternal twin sister, in a family of immigrants...and who isn't fascinated with immigration sagas? Add to that the fact that I am a mother of fraternal twin daughters, and I am riveted.... ...more
Jan 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
Reading this book, I was constantly reminded of that old maxim from my Creative Writing degree that was pounded into our heads over & over: SHOW, DON'T TELL. Because Good Lord, does Steinberg want to tell. Pages and pages of exposition. Reams of it! I found myself flicking through, skimming until I saw a spot of dialogue. That's when you know it's a problem.

I did enjoy some of the gritty scenes in the past, eager to view the world of 1930s Los Angeles and the Jewish community of Boyle Heights. B
Feb 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The description of this book was spot-on: it really did read like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, but for Los Angeles. The characters were wonderfully developed, and the little day-to-day aspects of their lives were just so engaging. The author didn't need an intricate, convoluted plot to keep my interest--her writing did it enough.

I think my biggest praise for this book is the way the author handled the flashbacks and the present day. The story bounced back and forth, from when Elaine was growing up
Dec 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars rounded up. I'm not sure if someone who isn't familiar with Los Angeles and/or didn't grow up in a Jewish/American community would appreciate this book. As both were true for me, I did. It moves in time between the present and the Boyle Heights Jewish community in the 1930's. It's the story of Barbara and Elaine Greenstein, fraternal twins, and their family and friends, spouses and lovers. But it's really Elaine's story as Barbara disappears quite early on (not a spoiler), although she ...more
JoAnne Pulcino

Janice Steinberg

A multigenerational immigrant family saga depicting the ties that bind in families, and the traumas sometimes only love can transcend.

The novel takes place in the 1920’s and 1930’s in the predominately Jewish community of Boyle Heights in Los Angeles. Sixty years ago Elaine’s twin sister Barbara ran away leaving only a cryptic note. While sorting old papers Elaine unearths what may amount to a clue to her twin sister’s disappearance. This journey is an emotional, hea
May 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I know this book is a novel, but I kept wanting to check out some of the names on search engines because the characters and situations seemed so real.
THE TIN HORSE is actually more than one story. Elaine Greenstein, a lawyer who specialized in human rights issues, was born in Boyle Heights, a Los Angeles suburb, in 1921, seventeen minutes after her twin sister, Barbara. They grew up in a Jewish environment where many of their neighbors and some of their relatives were new immigrants from Europ
Abigail Padgett
Feb 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
How do we know who we are? For some, family and culture provide a comfortable path to identity. For others that path can be a prison, and escape at any cost a desperate necessity. The Tin Horse, narrated by octogenarian Elaine Greenstein, traces the history of a complex and interesting family through several generations, from Romania to the now-vanished Jewish enclave of Boyle Heights in Los Angeles County. Elaine, intriguingly based on a cameo character in Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep, find ...more
Feb 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful book. The story is told in the voice of Elaine Greenstein, a retired attorney.Her tone is conversational and you gradually get to know her as you would in real life. The complexity of her life and her character are gradually revealed as she tells her story. When I first met her, I found her a touch annoying and self absorbed. But as the book progressed I fell in love with Elaine and the whole family.

It's an exciting story with a mysterious disappearance and search for a twin
Mar 15, 2013 rated it liked it
I really wanted to like this book, because it is well-written and the characters are fully-drawn. However, I just couldn't get invested in the central plot, the main character Elaine's search for her missing sister. The author didn't make me care enough about the outcome. If you want to learn more about the history of the 1920’s and 1930’s in the predominately Jewish community of Boyle Heights in Los Angeles, then yes, read it. But if you want a compelling, emotional story, you may be disappoint ...more
Sheryl Tempchin
Oct 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I loved this novel. Behind the main plot of octogenarian Elaine Greenstein's search for her long lost twin sister, is the tale of an immigrant family's struggles to assimilate into American culture while retaining their identity. The story is filled with wonderful characters and a wealth of detail about life in Los Angeles in the 1930s and 40s--but a different Los Angeles than the one usually seen in books and movies. Highly recommended. ...more
OMG, I thought I would love this book, but OMG... I don't know if it was me or the book, but WE didn't hit it off at all. I have to say, as did Tammy (Goodreads reviewer) it was a FLOP.. maybe not for you... but gaddddd... just couldn't do any more of it and I only had about 50 pages to go.

I didn't like anybody in the book EXCEPT the grandson... but for the rest of them... gezzzz... I end up reading sections over and over because they mean absolutely nothing to me.. I did appreciate the history
Jan 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was a recommendation from Book Page and I thoroughly enjoyed the story. The story opens as Elaine Greenstein is preparing to move into a retirement community and as she is sorting through her things, she finds something that may be a lead to finding her twin sister who left 60 some years ago. Twins, Elaine and Barbara, have never been separated--unless you count the 17 minutes between their births. Their parents live in Boyle Heights like many other Jewish immigrants and the girls and their ...more
Susan (aka Just My Op)
Aug 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc-edition
Like any family worth its salt, this fictional family has secrets and dissension, love and hate and loyalties and betrayals. And like the best of fictional families, this one seemed very real to me.

Elaine, one of the daughters in this close-knit family and now an old woman moving into a retirement community, reluctantly decides to try to find out what happened to a sibling decades after last seeing her. From early-Hitler Romania to modern-day Los Angeles, the Jewish family has quite a story to t
Nov 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
I won this book through Goodreads First Reads and I am so happy that I did.

I found this novel to be a very intriguing and captivating story about growing up in an immigrant family in the United States. The story is set in the current, as Elaine, the main character, is in the process of moving to a retirement home. Her twin sister disappeared many, many years ago and Elaine searches for an explanation. There are some unresolved family mysteries, memories, and authentic family interactions. Great
Hannah • So Obsessed With
In her eighties, Elaine Greenstein is finally in the process of moving into a retirement home. Opening in the present day, readers first meet Elaine as she's packing up and organizing the many things she's collected over her life. Because she is a well-known attorney, her alma mater has sent an archivist, Josh, to help her go through her papers and decide what will be donated to the university.

Read my full review at So Obsessed With!
Feb 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
Gosh, have I had a dry spell and it doesn't look to get better.
This book was put aside so many times, I thought to never finish it. And it has to be really bad for me not to, so I persevered.
Told from the memories and recollections of a now 85-year-old woman, the reader bounces back and forth between the past and present. It got tedious. And the stories just weren't riviting enough to keep the reader engaged. Formulaic ending, just not worth the time.
Nov 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
I love this story, it starts with our lead lady in the present and yet takes us back in time to the days of her youth. A story of family that survives the loss of a child although not thru death. A mystery that will keep you on the edge of your seat asking how is that possible. I'm looking forward to more by this author.
I received a free copy thru Goodreads first reads.
Christina Rothfusz
Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Elaine Greenstein's twin sister Barbara disappears from her live at the age of 18. As she packs up her belongings to move to a retirement community she comes across a clue to her sisters whereabouts.

Jumping between the past and the present the story of the Greenstein family unfolds, from old Romenia to Southern California over many generations and the betrayals that eventually leads to Barbara leaving.

I really enjoyed this novel. The characters are well developed and none of them are only good o
Judi Maylone
Jun 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Family dynamics and Jewish culture. Twin sisters with very very diverse interests and personalities. Interesting read on the Jewish community in Boyle Heights. One sister "disappears" and I didn't really care to find out what happened to her. ...more
Dee Vansomeren
Oct 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book!

Fabulous book! I loved all of the characters and their complicated relationships. It is true no two people in any family have the same experiences. I love that
Sharon Svuba
At first I was dubious, & thought a bit hard to follow, but glad I stayed with it - good story about family relationships & the secrets that we keep.
Jan 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Say that it's the first night of a writing class at UCSD in the mid-1980's and the other writers seem interesting but the teacher (last minute replacement) seems awful and then 3-4 women in the parking lot ask one another, are you coming back next week? When no one says yes there's only one thing to do - start meeting on your own. Then imagine that almost 30 years later, in a different part of the country, you learn that your former writing colleague has finished a novel, had it taken up by Fran ...more
Feb 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
In the opening scenes of "The Tin Horse: A Novel," we meet Elaine Greenstein, sorting through boxes that hold the memorabilia of her life and the lives of her parents.

Elaine has had a rich and full life as an attorney, and the causes she took on have made her something of a celebrity in her ranks. A young man named Josh, an archivist, is helping her decide which of her mementos to donate to USC . Because Elaine is finally leaving her home in Santa Monica for Rancho Manana, a retirement home that
Apr 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
The Tin Horse
Janice Steinberg

My "in a nutshell" summary...

Downsizing and old memories lead to past hidden revelations.

My thoughts after reading this book...

My thoughts sort of rambled as I read the final pages of this book. It was truly a book of family stories. It was the stories of a Jewish family living in Southern California in the early was a present day story, too. As Elaine preps her house for her move to a retirement community...papers and letters and photos br
Nov 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I love books about ordinary people living their everyday lives. I enjoy them even more when they involve other races, religions, or cultures and expose me to worlds that I would otherwise never see from the sheltered corner of my life. This is one of those books.

The Tin Horse tells the story of Elaine Greenstein, born in the 1920's, who grows up in Los Angeles in a Jewish community. The book opens with Elaine going through boxes of keepsakes and papers as she prepares to move into a retirement
Jan 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I liked this novel very much, and I'm not just saying that because the author is a friend. In fact, knowing the author made for a slight distraction in my reading experience, as I remembered conversations we'd had or realized that in my mind's eye the narrator character (Elaine) was looking a lot like Janice. But those were very minor concerns next to the sheer pleasure of reading my way through this story. One-phrase summation: it's like I Remember Mama, with a smart, sharp edge. There's nothin ...more
Kelly Duplechin
Nov 21, 2012 rated it liked it
I won The Tin Horse as a Goodreads prize, and I was very much looking forward to loving it. While I did become invested in the characters which the book centers around, I thought there were missed opportunities as well. The story tells of Elaine, her wild sister Barbara, and their family in the height of anti-semitic times in America, as well as relatives that are enduring much worse in their home countries. It is a coming of age tale that is abruptly complicated by the voluntary disappearance o ...more
Nov 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Every person has a distinct opinion on what kind of family they grew up in. The first born grew up in a totally different one than that of the 'baby'. Parents are changed and molded by life so that they relate to each child accordingly.

Fraternal twins, Elaine and Barbara (older by 17 minutes), as unalike as they can be, live in each others shadow; Elaine the quiet, studious, serious one and Barbara the outgoing fun-loving, adventurous one. Growing up in California in a Jewish household whose mo
Mar 23, 2014 rated it it was ok
I expected The Tin Horse by Janice Steinberg to be an engaging mystery uncovering the truth behind a sister's disappearance. Was it foul play or purposeful? The story was narrated by Elaine Greenstein, a successful 85 year old retired attorney, who was the fraternal twin of Barbara Greenstein; Barbara, much more wild and provocative than Elaine, disappeared many years ago, never to be heard from again despite desperate attempts by her family to locate her. While packing up her things to move int ...more
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