It's a young girl, coming of age story. No twists, turns or suprises. It was enjoyable, but not more. While writing this review I've changed my starts from 3 to 4. It's really somewhere in-between.
First, this is not a plot driven novel. If you require a story line that moves quickly, this one is not for you.
That said, if you pass this one up you will miss a deeply absorbing experience. This is the first Eleanor Widmer I've "read". Her characters are so complex, so real, flawed and lovable, you feel as though you know them.
The setting is heartbreakingly detailed. It really is a wonderful work.
I'm neither Jewish, nor Russian, nor a New Yorker...but I felt I had entered a profoundly interesting, and moving family history. The narrator of this was incredible and brought each character to life.
I'm usually a sucker for this kind of story. Families surviving their circumstances, love conquers all, etc. This one left me flat. I actually couldn't wait til it was over. I kept listening hoping it would get better, but alas, it didn't. The characters, other than the narrator (written in the first person from the perspective of a young Jewish girl) and her bubbe were not well developed and had no depth. Her parents were developmentally narcissistic teenagers. This family lived in a Jewish ghetto, supposedly very poor, yet these people indulged themselves in expensive clothes and entertainments, even professional manicures, while resenting the few dollars spent on clothes their daughter needed for school. I found nothing to like about them, as the only thing I was told about them was that they were beautiful and charming, which was reiterated so often it became insulting. Although the author is a good storyteller, none of the stories or episodes gave the listener any insight into the individuals, nor did they seem to learn or evolve throughout the book. There were no consequences, epiphanies or maturation. It was a series of this happened, then this happened, and it all seemed so random. Even Manya, the wise grandmother, escapes a relationship with a horrible man, not by her own choice, but it just works out that way. The family is often the beneficiary of the largesse of more successful family members and friends, and it all seems so contrived, always coming just at the right moment.
I gave it 2 stars because the stories often held their own, being interesting vignettes, even though they didn't seem to be part of a larger whole with a plot line leading somewhere, and I learned some things about life in that era and environment.
The reader, though a woman with a full, mellow voice, as evidenced by the tone she used when reading the narrative portions of the book, used the same, shrill voice for all the speaking parts, and the same accent. People raised in Connecticut had the same NY twang, just not quite as much. Although everyone sounded pretty much alike, the men's voices in particular were indistinct from each other, just louder and higher pitched, so they seemed to be yelling all the time. The text of this book contained a lot of dialogue that was back-and-forth conversation without explicitly stating who was speaking. If you were reading the book, each change of speaker would be a new paragraph, and it would be easier to discern who was speaking, but when listening without the benefit of distinct voices for each character, this was difficult to follow.
Tell us about yourself! As a retired elementary assistant librarian, I have loved reading to children. Now I really enjoy being read to!!
Puts you right in the middle of their lives. Great beliveable characters. I really didn't want story to end.
Unmitigated dreck. Zero character development, sugarcoated poverty, relentless cliches. Memoirs may tend to be short on plot, but in exchange, some realism should be provided, maybe a little historical context...
The reader, whose rendition of Dorothy Parker is terrific, could have used a bit of coaching in Yiddish (and advice on how to pronounce "ecstatic").