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Up from Orchard Street | [Eleanor Widmer]

Up from Orchard Street

Three generations of Roths live together in a crowded tenement flat. Long-widowed Manya is the family's head and its heart. But Manya is no soft touch, except, perhaps, where her granddaughter Elka is concerned. Precocious Elka is her closest companion and confidante. Through Elka's eyes we come to know the fascinating characters who move in and out of the Roths' lives.
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Publisher's Summary

Three generations of Roths live together in a crowded tenement flat. Long-widowed Manya is the family's head and its heart. She's renowned throughout the neighborhood for her cooking, and every noontime the front room of the flat turns into Manya's private restaurant. But Manya is no soft touch, except, perhaps, where her granddaughter Elka is concerned. Precocious Elka is her closest companion and confidante. Through Elka's eyes we come to know the fascinating characters who move in and out of the Roths' lives. Money may have been short, but opinions were not, and their tart tongues and lively humor abound. In this riveting story lies the heart of the American immigrant experience: a novel at once wise, funny, poignant, anguishing, exultant, and bursting with love.

©2005 Eleanor Widmer; (P)2005 Blackstone Audiobooks

What the Critics Say

  • 2005 Audie Award Nominee, Solo Narration (Female)

"Poignant snapshot of a long-lost era and place....[This] first novel offers pungent, nostalgic vignettes of Jewish life on Manhattan's Lower East Side." (Kirkus Reviews)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (339 )
5 star
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 (118)
3 star
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Overall
4.1 (113 )
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Story
4.2 (113 )
5 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Sara USA 08-10-14
    Sara USA 08-10-14 Member Since 2008

    I love reading reviews. No plot spoilers please. These are not book reports!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Tenement Life From a Child's Point of View"

    As the author states in the afterward of the book-this book is part biography, part fiction and all true. It tells a sweeping story of living in poverty in the tenements of NYC through the eyes of young Elka. The book reminded me of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn at first. However, I can understand why it isn't on a youth reading list anywhere. This story is peppered with frank talk about sex, infidelity and off-color jokes. Much of this was unnecessary for the story. It is a shame that this content makes it inappropriate for young people because it is an engaging tale filled with growth, insight and change.

    I agree with another reviewer that I would have liked a better time line. I found myself wondering what year it was when the action took place and hoping for an easier tracking of time progression. Instead there were vague mentions of "the war". Having firmer grounding in time would have made the story fit more easily into the world going on around it.

    Lorna Raver, the narrator, did a great job. I really enjoyed her enthusiasm. It was a long book but the listening time flew by and my attention was held effortlessly. Parts of the book are difficult listening, as the poverty, chronic illness, filth and constant struggle are harsh realities. That said, it is a good story and I'm glad I listened.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MEMcL Carlsbad, CA 04-17-07
    MEMcL Carlsbad, CA 04-17-07 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A delightful book"

    This is a charming and heart-warming book. The characters are beautifully portrayed by the reader and her accented dialogue adds to the pleasure of the book. My background is very different from the NYC Jewish culture and yet I could relate so well to the family. I loved the characters and I really hope that there will be a sequel.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patti Chittenango, NY, United States 12-30-06
    Patti Chittenango, NY, United States 12-30-06 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Another Favorite"

    The list just gets longer and longer of favorite books I have listened to. This one has definitely found a spot on that list.

    Set in NYC with a Jewish immigrant family prior to, through, and after the Depression. We learn about three generations of a wonderful family as they triumph together. The vignettes are amusing, sad, real, and loving.

    I do love ethnic tales because we can always find something in our own background to identify with, regardless of the culture. This is no exception.

    10 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Taryn Suffern, NY, United States 10-19-11
    Taryn Suffern, NY, United States 10-19-11 Member Since 2005

    Addicted to Audible!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    162
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    "Entertaining"

    While this book was no great piece of literature, it was an entertaining, engaging story. My Italian grandmother grew up in the NYC tenements and many of her stories were similar although her family was actually poorer than the one described. I think the child's perspective was a good approach, as many of the harsh realities were downplayed. The Tenement Museum in NYC has apartments decorated as they were in this time period - quite interesting.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    mary j aboughadareh Reston, VA USA 06-01-09
    mary j aboughadareh Reston, VA USA 06-01-09 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Reminisent of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barbara Green New York, NY USA 01-28-09
    Barbara Green New York, NY USA 01-28-09 Member Since 2007

    readingisgreat

    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
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    "Made me smile"

    This brought back many memories of days gone by. I enjoyed it. I found myself looking forward to getting in my car so that I could get back to this very close and loving family. Many of her memories are my memories too and many things put a smile on my face.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael orlando, FL, USA 10-20-08
    Michael orlando, FL, USA 10-20-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Loved Every Second"

    That narrator was excellent, accents just like I remembered growing up in NY. I highly recommend this audiobook.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anne Montgomery Village, MD, United States 02-10-08
    Anne Montgomery Village, MD, United States 02-10-08 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Delightful"

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and the narrator added to the spell it cast for me. Maybe things are a little sugary, as the one completely hostile reviewer indicated, but I didn't find it terribly unrealistic. The author could have made more of the difficulties in her family's life and of the character flaws in her relatives, but she didn't ignore them. No one is an untarnished angel, except (perhaps) Manya. The environment isn't completely sanitized - racial and ethnic hatreds are certainly there, along with the awfulness of tenement life. These are real people, drawn with a loving hand.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Angie Kansas City, MO, United States 07-09-08
    Angie Kansas City, MO, United States 07-09-08 Member Since 2005

    Immigration lawyer in Kansas City. I like Character driven dramas, fantasy (monsters, magic and witches oh my!) and coming of age stories. Favs include: The Book Thief, The Game of Throne series, Harry Potter Series, Dresden Files, Nightside series, anything by Neil Gaimen, 100 Years of Solitude.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent"

    I love books told from the point of view of a child. They are truly amazing. Like The Secret Lives of Bees and The Book Thief, this book is the world through the eyes of a 6-14 year old growing up in 1930'2 New York in a Jewish Ghetto. It is about family and the strong ties that bind us to those we love, both blood and friends. This is an excellent story and the characters are lovely. The narrator is EXCELLENT. She did the variety of people, ages, accents with ease. I highly recommend this story.

    8 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carol osprey, FL, United States 08-15-09
    Carol osprey, FL, United States 08-15-09 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "My Life"

    Could not believe it, I still smell the sour pickles,nuts and dried fruits.The urine in the stairwells,my mother would hit the steps to scare the rats & the drunkes.I remeber my mother shoveling coal in some tenaments. Then we would get slippers in the lower eastside for 5 cents put them on the pushcart and sell for 20cents if we could get it. Classified as non-fiction for me. I remeber mom!To Life!

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
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