©2005 Eleanor Widmer; (P)2005 Blackstone Audiobooks
"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)
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.
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.
Addicted to Audible!
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.
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.
Avid Listener of Audible
This book was highly engaging. I thought I wasn't going to like it, but after about 40 minutes it started to get really good. I loved the characters and the narrator did an awesome job of turning them to life. The best part was that it was based on the author's true life story. Its well worth the time and credit spent.
I bought this book, started it and then put it aside for more than a year. Why? I guess it started out to be one of those "heartwarming" coming-of-age books and I wasn't in the mood. I came back to it by accident and was drawn in by the horrors and wonders of life in New York's Lower East Side just before WWII. The dialogue is convincing, the narration is wonderful and the emergence of the character of the mother, Lil, is astonishing.
The author died at the age of 80 just after finishing the final revisions of this book - her first novel. It is a shame that there won't be a second.
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!
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.
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.
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