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Editorial Reviews

Beyond the Pale is a touching, lyrical story that follows two immigrant women from the Pale settlement in Russia to New York. Dykewomom presents a powerful look into the experience of being Jewish and a lesbian, while also looking at the greater immigrant experience against the backdrop of poverty. It's a treat to have the writer herself perform this audiobook. Because they are her own words, she easily captures the rhythms of the poetic language. Meanwhile, her voice is so loving toward the characters that is hard not to be swept away by this beautiful, moving audiobook.

Publisher's Summary

Beyond the Pale - winner of the Lambda Literary Award - tells the stories of two Jewish women living through times of darkness and inhumanity in the early 20th century, capturing their undaunted love and courage in luminous and moving prose. The richly textured novel details Gutke Gurvich's odyssey from her apprenticeship as a midwife in a Russian shtetl to her work in the suffrage movement in New York.

Interwoven with her tale is that Chava Meyer, who was attended by Gurvich at her birth and grew up to survive the pogrom that took the lives of her parents. Throughout the story, historical background plays a large part: Jewish faith and traditions, the practice of midwifery, the horrific conditions in prerevolutionary Russia and New York sweatshops, and the determined work of labor unionists and suffragists.

©2003 Elana Dykewomon (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

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Overall

  • 4.0 out of 5.0
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great historical fiction with a lesbian twist

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I would recommend this book to anyone who is into historical fiction, as this gives great insight into the experiences of immigrants in the early 1900's NYC as well as the oppression of Jews in Russian and elsewhere during that time period

What was one of the most memorable moments of Beyond the Pale?

the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire was as memorable as it was upsetting and difficult to read, though wonderfully written. Also the moments detailing the Pograms in Russia were painfully real, beautifully written and so tragic.Through her narration and writing you truly felt right there in the midst of the action, and you mourned the losses of loved ones right along with the main protagonist.

What about Elana Dykewomon’s performance did you like?

It was so incredibly authentic... these stories could have very well been her own stories that she is passing on to me, the listener

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I was in tears toward the end, the factory fire... I challenge you to make it through that part of the book (after reading all of the events leading up to it) with a dry eye

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Karen
  • Philadelphia, PA, United States
  • 11-23-13

Love the story / performance mixed

I read this book years ago when it was first published, and I loved it then, and I love it now. Elana Dykewoman captures something essential about the immigrant experience - the cultural and political and emotional worlds they experienced, including unbearable trauma and tremendous joy. At the same time, her main characters are navigating the dynamics of belonging and exile and making new home in relation to learning how to be women-loving-women in a world where there is hardly even language and only the barest beginnings of community for them. It is about family and loyalty and being true to yourself in a changing world. And beautifully written.

That said... having an author-read book is always a bit risky. Elana Dykewoman gets some things absolutely right. She has the Yiddish inflection and expressions and pronunciation that are absolutely required for the characters' voices to feel authentic. What she doesn't have is voice acting ability to create characters whose voices sound different on the recording. So there were times when dialogue that would be clear visually on the page became confusing when listing - hard to know who was speaking. Especially where there are changes in who is narrating. Also, there were far more than the usual number of editing glitches - not a huge deal, but noticeable.

Because this book is probably thought of as "niche", I imagine there may not have been a substantial budget for hiring voice talent - so I'm glad Dykewoman made it happen anyway. Revisiting this story in a new way was wonderful, despite the less-than-ideal recording.

It is a very moving and difficult and beautiful story. Well worth it.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Historical aspects were interesting

What would have made Beyond the Pale better?

It was too long, the transitions from characters' thoughts confused me sometimes because they had the same narrator

Would you ever listen to anything by Elana Dykewomon again?

probably not

How could the performance have been better?

Different narrators for different characters

Any additional comments?

It gave good descriptions of immigrant life of Russians in NYC during the early 20th century.

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good story with too much internal dialog

the underlying story is beautiful, but there are long stretches where it's just internal rambling of a preteen and that really dragged on over and over. just to mention, since the summary doesn't, there are alot of female sexual relationships. one last thing, if you know your history... you can see alot of the awful things coming.

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  • Mary
  • wilmington, DE, United States
  • 06-15-15

Sadness

This story has some of the saddest history woven around its characters. It's presentation is not typical . Sad

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fascinating

I loved the storyline. wonderful history and a fascinating look at the role of women immigrants at the turn of century

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  • Richard
  • Lockport, NY, United States
  • 02-17-15

Long winded but historically interesting.

An author who takes on the performance of their own work may be similar a lawyer who chooses to represent their own self. In this case Elana Dykewoman does herself no favor. I found her recitation of the book to be an unimaginative drone of a work that could have been presented much better. The editing leaves much to be desired, with Dykewoman rereading phrases and passages.
The story has much to offer, and a unique perspective of womens relationships at the turn of the 20th century. Although from the work, one could draw that most women of the time were of lesbian persuasion, and although I know from personal experience that it existed, I doubt that it was as pervasive as presented here.
Beyond the Pale presents the reality of the age very well, extended digressions throughout the work not withstanding.
An excellent story that would have done better with a professional presenter and if it were shorter by several hours.

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Beautiful

Gripping. Compelling. Compassionate. Historically moving. All these words come to mind as I think back on this well written story. More than a story.

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  • CJ
  • 04-13-14

Great Historical Novel

Would you consider the audio edition of Beyond the Pale to be better than the print version?

I love print books too, but in this case, yes. The reader/author included much authentic-sounding dialect in Russian, Yiddish, etc, that I enjoyed hearing her pronounce, rather than just having to guess at it myself, which tends to slow me down and break the rhythm of my reading. Listening to it gave me a much better sense of her characters, as well as of the languages.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Beyond the Pale?

The Triangle Shirtwaist fire, beyond question. Beyond my poor ability to describe, but absolutely unforgettable. I also enjoyed the tender moments between the two main characters, especially when they were in the camp.

What does Elana Dykewomon bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Besides the pronunciation issue as I mentioned above, I felt the author/reader was truly invested in the story. There was a deep sense of historical perspective. I probably would have felt that if I had read the book as well but in listening to it, at times I got the sense of her barely contained outrage at various social/political/economic injustices.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Not really, although I listened to most of it on a long drive, so I had fairly lengthy sessions between breaks. With a book like this, I like a little time off to process the characters' experiences. But not too much!

Any additional comments?

Not typical of many book of this genre (lesbian fiction) in that it goes much deeper into the times and places than most. The romance aspect is very understated, as it would have been in those times, but still deeply felt. I graded the story down one star simply because there were a few times I would find myself ready for something else to happen (for the plot to move on) - but then it usually would. So not a book for those looking for some quick thrills, but if you're ready to spend some time and thought on an interesting story, this is the book for you. It still crosses my mind, months later.

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  • Tina
  • Wentworth falls, Australia
  • 03-25-14

Thoroughly enjoyed it!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

It was savvy and to the point!...stories were great!

What about Elana Dykewomon’s performance did you like?

I liked how it was narrated, simple, easy and at times funny!

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

YES!

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  • lesley
  • 02-05-15

Heartwarming story

Would you listen to Beyond the Pale again? Why?

I would read again - I enjoyed the detail and characterisation - its a fascinating journey

What did you like best about this story?

The description of the bathhouse, the description of this world with the two horses who took turns at pumping the water.

Have you listened to any of Elana Dykewomon’s other performances? How does this one compare?

not yet !

Any additional comments?

This was a story which needed to be told and has been told beautifully.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful