In 1920, in small-town America, the ubiquitous dry goods store was usually owned by Jews and often referred to as "the Jew store". That's how Stella Suberman's father's store, Bronson's Low-Priced Store, in Concordia, Tennessee, was known locally. The Bronsons were the first Jews to ever live in that tiny town of one main street, one bank, one drugstore, one picture show, one feed and seed, one hardware, one barber shop, one beauty parlor, one blacksmith, and many Christian churches. Aaron Bronson moved his family all the way from New York City to Tennessee to prove himself a born salesman - and much more.
Told by Aaron's youngest child, The Jew Store is that rare thing - an intimate family story that sheds new light on a piece of American history. With a novelist's sense of scene, suspense, and, above all, characterization, Stella Suberman turns the clock back to a time when rural America was more peaceful but no less prejudiced, when educated liberals were suspect, and when the Klan was threatening to outsiders. In that setting she brings to life her remarkable father, a man whose own brand of success proves that intelligence, empathy, liberality, and decency can build a home anywhere.
©1998 Stella Suberman (P)2016 Tantor
"Suberman's fine writing and her ability to record tones and scents as well as images make this a lively and engaging story." (School Library Journal)
The nature of living in the south and of being Jewish comes into focus because of the tensions and conflicts. The little details, the elements of daily life so easily forgotten one hundred years later, made the story come to life.
None stood out; all of the characters fit well within the cohesive whole.
I had to take breaks from it. Not because the voice acting wasn't good (overall I thought Donna Postel did a tremendous job) but because the story felt too much like a nostalgic re-creation. There wasn't much reflection mixed in with the childhood memories to really give the story bite.
...so I was thrilled it was finally on audio. Unfortunately, the audio narrator detracted from the story. While she didn't mispronounce any of the Yiddish words (thumbs up), she couldn't voice accents or the cadence of NY Jews, and she couldn't differentiate much between male and female "characters." She wasn't awful but she didn't even reach the "ok" benchmark. That said, Postel's voice was perfectly "pleasant" to listen to and the story was good enough that I wanted to know how it all played out.
As for the story, my only complaint is that the author flat out tells you she made up the name of the town and county. Why? I think she was in her 80s when she wrote this book so...?
The story really was quite interesting and she handled the "family memoir" quite well, e.g., a good portion takes place before she's born and every once in a while she'll pop in something like, "Of course I wasn't there but I've heard the story so many times," or "My brother remembers it like this..." so you don't feel like she's just making it up.
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