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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 (351 )
5 star
 (137)
4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Overall
4.1 (125 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
4.2 (124 )
5 star
 (64)
4 star
 (32)
3 star
 (21)
2 star
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1 star
 (3)
Performance
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  •  
    Terry Pomfret Center, CT, USA 10-06-09
    Terry Pomfret Center, CT, USA 10-06-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
    38
    ratings
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    51
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    "I loved this book"

    My mother would have loved this story. It doesn't matter that the nationality is different, the city different. The story of the strong, honest immigrant family is universal. They used what they had, making something out of nothing., to be shared with others who had less. The stories my mother told of her young years during the depression, with 3 generations all living under 1 roof, were the same. I know she would have remembered her own loving grandmother, so wonderfully described in this book. What a precious heritage we enjoy! Well written, well read. Thank you.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    LK Texas 06-14-09
    LK Texas 06-14-09 Listener Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    3
    1
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    "Wonderful Tale!"

    My recent experiences in both reading and listening to books had left me concerned because nothing was captivating me. This book changed that. I loved this book. The author weaves a tale of an immigrant woman and her family. They are all flawed and they are all wonderful. The narrator's use of a variety of accents and speech patterns brought my back to my youth in New York. Although my ancestors immigrated from a similar place, under similar circumstances, their life in New York was very different in both location and details. This was all new to me and a wonderful journey through the characters lives. I believe that regardless of your experience or background you will enjoy watching these characters evolve.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cheryl Culver, OR, USA 03-31-08
    Cheryl Culver, OR, USA 03-31-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    19
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    "A delightful story"

    This book is a fictionalized memoir but reads more like a memoir. The story is narrated by the granddaughter who is very likeable. It is set in early 1900s New York City in the Jewish district. It is about a woman who emigrated from Russia with her husband, who shortly dies shortly after they reach the US. They have one child and she must raise him alone. Instead of growing up and leaving home, he marries and brings his wife to live with his mother in their one bedroom apartment. The couple have two children whom the grandmother lovingly raises, with the beautiful but empty-headed mother's blessing.

    The grandmother runs a restaurant in their apartment. If you don't know much about Jewish food, you will when you finish as it is much discussed. It also makes one realize how easy life is now compared to the one this family lived. The family is close and the neighbors all know everyone's business. The story is funny and sad, and very entertaining. I had a hard time putting it down, which is about all I ask of a book.

    5 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Traci Truckee, CA, USA 07-08-07
    Traci Truckee, CA, USA 07-08-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
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    15
    1
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    "Addicting"

    This was the first audio book I downloaded, and I couldn't stop listening. A great book and narrated wonderfuly. Highly recommended.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark Fort Lauderdale, FL, United States 11-21-11
    Mark Fort Lauderdale, FL, United States 11-21-11 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    311
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    Story
    "Epic story of immigrant life in New York"

    I cannot recommend this book highly enough. As someone who has worked years in the food industry this "up from your boot straps" story described by way of classic home cooking really struck home for me.

    Lorna Raver is one of the best narrators in the business. Her talents are well used here.

    This ranks as another book I envy anyone experiencing for the first time.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anne 01-07-10
    Anne 01-07-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    109
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    6
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    Overall
    "Good and not so good"

    I am glad I bought this, but am also glad I didn't pay full price for it (bought it during the $4.95 sale.)

    I liked the historical detail of life in the tenements of New York for the Jewish immigrants. I learned some interesting things about that life in the first half of the 20th century (did you know that people could run a restaurant out of a second-floor walk-up apartment?)

    I would have liked it better if the author had been better about conveying time frames... it was hard to keep track of the passage of time. There was a GREAT deal of detail in some places; sometimes MUCH more than was needed.

    Overall, I liked the book. The character development was reasonable and, in general, brutally honest. They had both charm and flaws, as well as depth. The narrator did a good job and, after the initial "getting used to it" period, I had no trouble following the characters.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    arlene Potomac, MD 08-05-13
    arlene Potomac, MD 08-05-13

    English teacher nerd, love books with character depth and a good plot, and enjoy almost any genre.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The narration is stale and methodical"
    What would have made Up from Orchard Street better?

    The story is pointless and I wasn't really sure of the plot. It dragged on mercilessly for over eight hours. I thought the grandma was hilarious but she really was a foil character and the other people seemed disingenuous and Whitney.


    What was most disappointing about Eleanor Widmer’s story?

    It was rated so high,y and compared to "The Chaperone". This story is a biography that is a complete fabrication of life in New York. It was unbelievable and didn't have any authentic description or detail.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    Yes- she read like the story was a boring essay. She tried the accents but even those were mediocre.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    None- no feelings at all!,,


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Enthous St. Paul, MN USA 08-03-13
    Enthous St. Paul, MN USA 08-03-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    14
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    "Good details of ghetto life, poor characters"

    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.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jackie Brooklyn, NY, United States 06-19-13
    Jackie Brooklyn, NY, United States 06-19-13 Member Since 2011

    Lemon Lover

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Sweet old world story - just get it on sale"
    Where does Up from Orchard Street rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This book is on the high end of the middle. It's a perfect 4 stars. I got the book during one of the audible sales, and this made it especially enjoyable for what it was. The story is deeply moving and I found the characters to be very familiar. The narration and the experience of listening to it was very sweet. The experience of listening to this book felt similar to spending time with an aging family member telling stories of their past. The story gets a little syrupy by the end and the main character is just a bit too idealized. By the end of the book it was too predictable that everything would always work out for this seemingly magical little girl.


    Any additional comments?

    I live in New York, so this book was especially enjoyable for its historical depiction of a major NYC neighborhood. The story is a great reminder that this city and our country is constantly changing and within one person's lifetime a community can take on a completely new identity.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    girorv montreal, QC, Canada 03-27-13
    girorv montreal, QC, Canada 03-27-13 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    17
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    134
    50
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    2
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    "wonderful performance"

    There is not a lot of action in this book , but there is a tremendous amount of atmosphere. Lorna Raver brings this story to life. The characters are distinct and lifelike. The novel is a series of reminiscences of a child's past and of a time past. I enjoyed my time there. There was hardship but also much love. It is not romanticized but presented just so we can look at it and see for ourselves what those days may have been like.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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