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A Day of Small Beginnings

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  129 ratings  ·  25 reviews
Poland, 1906: on a cold spring night, in the small Jewish cemetery of Zokof, Friedl Alterman is wakened from death. On the ground above her crouches Itzik Leiber, a reclusive, unbelieving fourteen-year-old whose fatal mistake has spurred the town's angry residents to violence. The childless Friedl rises to guide him to safety -- only to find she cannot go back to her grave ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published November 3rd 2006 by Little, Brown and Company
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Average rating 4.03  · 
Rating details
 ·  129 ratings  ·  25 reviews

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Georgia (Jeni) Bleiweis
Dec 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully-written book from an intelligent author. I decided to read this book to learn more about the Jewish culture and roots, and this novel fit the bill. Rosenbaum combined themes of Jewish history and traditional Jewish values in such a way that people of all religions and spirituality can relate. Interwoven into the story were elements of multi-generational character development, cultural aspects of dance, music and education and the crossing of ethnic and spiritual boundaries...all wo ...more
Aug 03, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: religion
Yet another Holocaust story, which takes place over 3 generations. The first-generation male flees Poland after he's responsible for the death of a bigoted, anti-Semitic villager. He moves to America & never talks about his past. His son, at age 59 & a Harvard political scientist, travels to Poland to share his expertise. While there he visits his father's village & learns his story. Some years later that man's daughter retraces his steps while she's there on invitation to choreograph a ballet. ...more
Amy Lenzo
Jul 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I am so sorry this book has ended ... I’ve been bound up in it to the point of its being part of my ongoing everyday thought, stretched out for weeks on purpose. I will miss the world it evokes. Total immersion in Pearlman’s lush tapestry of history and art and redemption has been a painful but important and ultimately transformative experience.
Diane Blattner
It was fine

Got really bogged down in the end and I ended up skimming the last 10% of the book. I didn’t buy into the spiritual change of the main character.
Susan Weinberg
Sep 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite books from my 2012 reading.

The story is told through three generations with the connecting thread being Freidl, the spirit of a woman who once lived in a small shtetl in Poland. Each generation brings a greater understanding of their heritage and the reader shares their journey. The first segment begins with a young boy in the early 1900s who is forced to flee his shtetl and comes to America. In the second segment we find his son, a college professor, in Poland for a lecture.
Marian Turk
Jan 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: jewish-fiction
This is not a book about the Holocaust. I'm not sure why so many reviewers on Goodreads have categorized this as a Holocaust book. Not every book that mentions the Holocaust is *about* the Holocaust. A Day of Small Beginnings is a beautiful book about family history, identity, and finding one's Jewish roots. It's quite an insightful look at what happens when one becomes distanced from one's Jewish identity, and what it means to be Jewish in the first place. It also questions how well we can ever ...more
Jan 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, historical
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joey Gremillion
Aug 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The soul of Friedl Alterman, one year in the grave, has been released after Itzik Leiber, a young Jewish teenager, accidentally causes the death of a drunken Polish lout and is on the run and finds solace in her grave. Friedl soul cannot be returned to her grave and she haunts young Itzik, and then, upon his death, his son Nathan and granddaughter Ellen, who have not been taught Torah and Yiddishkeit. It is up to Ellen, who returns to Poland, to help Freidl find rest. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED FOR READ ...more
Nov 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
I quite enjoyed this book even though I had to renew it twice before I could finish it. There is only a little plot and a lot of thought in it. Itzak, Ellen's grandfather, fled from his small Polish village under threat of death and emigrated to America where he revealed little of his past life. His son and granddaughter were not raised in the Jewish faith and knew nothing of their heritage until each of them had to go to Poland for business and were confronted with their family past. This was a ...more
Mar 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
my journey into jewish european history continues with no plan on my part. this book has been on my list for a number of years and i just ordered from library and loved it. a very different approach to learning about a family history. the book is filled with beautiful biblical poetry and songs *(in my imagination of course as the book didn't sing!) . excellent story and left me wanting to know more. now i have to see if there is a sequel
Dec 11, 2010 added it
If you're interested in Jewish History, this gives you some information that was left out of our public and/or private education. It has an existential play on things which makes it entertaining. I really enjoyed it.
Jamie Mulkey
Dec 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I liked the way it spanned over 3 generations and how the lives of the characters intertwined. The author does a nice writing style that is descriptive, yet not overpowering.
Oct 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: hf, poland, religion, usa
I read this a long time ago. I do not think I can put together a coherent review. The book description makes it sound weirder than it really was. You leave the book with a better understanding of the Jewish situation in Poland's past.
I felt that this book was not written very well. The ghost story line is really contrived. However, I gave it 3 stars instead of 2 because it touches on some interesting issues, such as Jewish assimilation, Jewish-Polish relations, Polish culture, and genealogical research.
Barbara Gottesman
Dec 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
So far loving this; I love the fantasy aspect of a ghost watching over this character, and then his son. Can't wait to get back to it later! I finished this last week. I loved the story, I felt it was a little anti-climactic at the end, but overall really enjoyed it.
Jan 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed it. I come from a Polish background from that part of the country and it was fun to read the history and opinions from characters set in a historical time period. I enjoyed the the mix of the past and present.
Jun 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Ending was disappointing, but still an amazing novel.
Apr 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
For my Jewish friends and those that want to learn about Judaism.
Jun 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Fantastic book ---- extremely well written
Jan 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2008, january, favorites
An amazing story that will get you thinking. This is the kind of book that sticks with you long after you have finished reading it.
Rob Hood
Oct 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I love this book! It was difficult to cease reading when sleep overcame me! I wanted to stay with it! It's a beautiful well written story!
Agatha Lund
Another I didn't finish reading -- simply wasn't up my alley, especially for the summer. Dense, and probably engaging if you could get past the set-up, but I failed to. My problem, not Rosenbaum's.
Marcia Fine
Oct 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! Best examination of why some Polish Jews chose political freedom over religion. I respect my grandparents' lifestyle, but I couldn't live it! Rosenbaum writes beautifully!
May 22, 2009 rated it liked it
This book captivated me at the beginning, a 20th century story told like a Hasidic folk tale, but the quality of the writing did not hold all the way to the end. Could tell it was a first novel.
Oct 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Loved this book.
Kay Kinsler
rated it it was amazing
Mar 01, 2009
rated it it was amazing
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My debut novel, A Day of Small Beginnings, asks the question, who are we if we don’t know where our families came from? What are the consequences for the loss of our histories? It is a peculiarly American question. I was inspired in part by my Polish-born grandfather, who having turned his back on his history and his religion, would mysteriously weep every year at our very unorthodox Passover Sede ...more

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