THE ORCHARD by David Hopen

January 15, 2021

THE ORCHARD by David Hopen. Ecco (November 17, 2020). ISBN 978-0062974747. 480 pages.

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TO THE EDGE OF SORROW by Aharon Appelfeld

January 27, 2020

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Translated by Stuart Schoffman

From the publisher:

From “fiction’s foremost chronicler of the Holocaust” (Philip Roth), here is a haunting novel about an unforgettable group of Jewish partisans fighting the Nazis during World War II.

Battling numbing cold, ever-present hunger, and German soldiers determined to hunt them down, four dozen resistance fighters—escapees from a nearby ghetto—hide in a Ukrainian forest, determined to survive the war, sabotage the German war effort, and rescue as many Jews as they can from the trains taking them to concentration camps. Their leader is relentless in his efforts to turn his ragtag band of men and boys into a disciplined force that accomplishes its goals without losing its moral compass. And so when they’re not raiding peasants’ homes for food and supplies, or training with the weapons taken from the soldiers they have ambushed and killed, the partisans read books of faith and philosophy that they have rescued from abandoned Jewish homes, and they draw strength from the women, the elderly, and the remarkably resilient orphaned children they are protecting. When they hear about the advances being made by the Soviet Army, the partisans prepare for what they know will be a furious attack on their compound by the retreating Germans. In the heartbreaking aftermath, the survivors emerge from the forest to bury their dead, care for their wounded, and grimly confront a world that is surprised by their existence—and profoundly unwelcoming.

Narrated by seventeen-year-old Edmund—a member of the group who maintains his own inner resolve with memories of his parents and their life before the war—this powerful story of Jews who fought back is suffused with the riveting detail that Aharon Appelfeld was uniquely able to bring to his award-winning novels.


The novel is a well-done story of people forced by circumstances beyond their control into a horror beyond any one’s dreams, or probably nightmares. It is told in the first person by a young boy named Edmund, who at 17 years of age is swept mercilessly from the life of a student living peacefully with his loving parents into the role of a killer.

The story begins with Edmund and his parents being forced by their captors into boarding a train. The train is to take the family to a concentration camp and the captors are German soldiers under the orders of Adolf Hitler. Edmund is told by his parents to run away from the train and hide someplace. He does so due to the prodding by his mother and father and in his traveling away meets a group of other people, all Jews that are seeking to hide from the soldiers.

The style of the narration by Edmund and reactions of other people in the group that he meets and joins is blase and describes the horrors they live with in a manner that makes them just everyday occurrences. In traveling away from the enemy and their own city, they settle on an elevated area and convert it into a defensive position. A member of the group begins drilling them in order to convert peaceful people into a group that can use weapons and fight against soldiers hunting them. They begin raiding homes and farmhouses in the area around them in order to pick up food and clothing. They use weapons taken from the soldiers that they kill as their own and expand their fighting ability.

All the while everyone involved just dreams of a day when the enemy is defeated and they can return to a normalcy that is in a distant past. The group also begins to raid trains taking people to concentration camps until they can no longer feed and care for more people.

The question posed is can these individuals, including a young teen like Edmund, ever really return to a normal life or are they marked by their forced experiences to be perpetually haunted by what has been forced on them. I came away from this read with a feeling that I have just dealt with something that will stay with me for a long long time, whether I like it or not.

1/2020 Paul Lane

TO THE EDGE OF SORROW by Aharon Appelfeld & Stuart Schoffman. Schocken (January 14, 2020). ISBN 978-0805243420. 304p.

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AN UNORTHODOX MATCH by Naomi Ragen

October 30, 2019

10/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

AN UNORTHODOX MATCH by Naomi Ragen. St. Martin’s Press (September 24, 2019). ISBN 978-1250161222. 336p.

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THE 100 MOST JEWISH FOODS, edited by Alana Newhouse

April 19, 2019

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A Highly Debatable List 

From the publisher:

With contributions from Ruth Reichl, Éric Ripert, Joan Nathan, Michael Solomonov, Dan Barber, Yotam Ottolenghi, Tom Colicchio, Maira Kalman, Melissa Clark, and many more!

Tablet’s list of the 100 most Jewish foods is not about the most popular Jewish foods, or the tastiest, or even the most enduring. It’s a list of the most significant foods culturally and historically to the Jewish people, explored deeply with essays, recipes, stories, and context. Some of the dishes are no longer cooked at home, and some are not even dishes in the traditional sense (store-bought cereal and Stella D’oro cookies, for example). The entire list is up for debate, which is what makes this book so much fun. Many of the foods are delicious (such as babka and shakshuka). Others make us wonder how they’ve survived as long as they have (such as unhatched chicken eggs and jellied calves’ feet). As expected, many Jewish (and now universal) favorites like matzo balls, pickles, cheesecake, blintzes, and chopped liver make the list. The recipes are global and represent all contingencies of the Jewish experience. Contributors include Ruth Reichl, Éric Ripert, Joan Nathan, Michael Solomonov, Dan Barber, Gail Simmons, Yotam Ottolenghi, Tom Colicchio, Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, Maira Kalman, Action Bronson, Daphne Merkin, Shalom Auslander, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, and Phil Rosenthal, among many others. Presented in a gifty package, The 100 Most Jewish Foods is the perfect book to dip into, quote from, cook from, and launch a spirited debate.


Since tonight is the first night of Passover, this seemed like a good opportunity to talk about this book. And it is a book that is begging to be discussed. Maybe not with your book group, unless it is a predominantly Jewish book group, because really, no one else is going to care. But if you belong to a synagogue, sisterhood, Hadassah, or JCC type book group, bring it on!

Alana Newhouse is the editor-in-chief of Tablet magazine. They had posted just the list of foods online and the response was quick and passionate. Thus this book was born. Just FYI, I did not get the “gifty package” of this book; the publisher sent me the advanced reader copy which is a paperback and missing things like page numbers. But all the important stuff is there, certainly more than enough upon which to base this review.

Each food is discussed by a different author and while not all are Jewish, I would say most are. I didn’t know who most of these authors were, but there is a lovely “About the Contributors” section in the back of the book. Sprinkled in among the Jewish names I didn’t know are celebrity/TV chefs like Marcus Samuelsson, Eric Ripert, and Dan Barber; famous Jewish foodies and cookbook authors like Ruth Reichl, Joan Nathan, and Gail Simmons, and Jewish notables like the always-in-my-heart-West-Wing (but many, many other productions,) actor Joshua Malina, fashion designer Zac Posen, and the creator of “Everybody Loves Raymond” and star of Netflix’s “Somebody Feed Phil,” Phil Rosenthal. It is a fairly homogeneous group, and that is to be expected.

Each food is discussed and there are several recipes as well. Some are definitely controversial – let’s start with the obvious, bacon, but also Chinese food, and sushi. All right, it is “Kosher Sushi” so I’ll give it a pass.

I learned stuff, too, which is always a plus. Stella D’oro Swiss Fudge Cookies make an appearance in a piece written by Ian Frazier (who I know from his writing at The New Yorker). Silly me, I always assumed that Stella D’oro cookies were Italian, and the company was founded by the Zambetti family. But it was based in the Bronx in the 1930’s, in a very Jewish (80% he claims) neighborhood and they made cookies that did not contain dairy, thus rendering them pareve, and kosher. When the family sold the business to Kraft, they decided leaving out dairy was too expensive so they put it back in, lost the “pareve” label and sales plummeted. They went back to the original recipe, sold the company, strikes happened, they moved from the Bronx to Ashland, Ohio, and are still there. I loved the last line of this essay: “That the Swiss Fudge Cookie has its own story of suffering, exile, and survival makes it even more Jewish, I believe.” I believe, too.

All the usual suspects are here: lox, babka, chopped liver, schmaltz (and gribenes!), matzo, gefilte fish, challah, Hebrew National hot dogs, etc. And by usual, I mean Ashkenazic Jewish foods, the foods of my childhood, my life. But the Sephardim are also represented by pomegranate, Yemenite bread and soup, carciofi alla Giudia and more.

There is a lot of knowledge here but also a lot of laughs. This was also a nostalgic read, in a way, since a lot of these foods have disappeared from my life. I haven’t had kreplach since my grandmother died when I was a child. But I’ll be having matzo, chicken soup with matzo balls, charoset, chopped liver, macaroons, sponge cake and more tonight.

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For all my Jewish readers, I wish you a joyous Passover!

4/19 Stacy Alesi AKA the BookBitch™

THE 100 MOST JEWISH FOODS by Alana Newhouse. Artisan (March 19, 2019). ISBN: 978-1579659066. 256p.

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SARA BERMAN’S CLOSET by Maira Kalman & Alex Kalman

October 31, 2018

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From the publisher:

Maira Kalman, the author of the bestsellers The Principles of Uncertainty and The Elements of Style, and Alex Kalman, the designer, curator, writer, and founder of Mmuseumm, combine their talents in this captivating family memoir, a creative blend of narrative and striking visuals that is a paean to an exceptional woman and a celebration of individuality, personal expression, and the art of living authentically.

In the early 1950s, Jewish émigré Sara Berman arrived in the Bronx with her husband and two young daughters When the children were grown, she and her husband returned to Israel, but Sara did not stay for long. In the late 1960s, at age sixty, she left her husband after thirty-eight years of marriage. One night, she packed a single suitcase and returned alone to New York City, moving into a studio apartment in Greenwich Village near her family. In her new home, Sara began discovering new things and establishing new rituals, from watching Jeopardy each night at 7:00 to eating pizza at the Museum of Modern Art’s cafeteria every Wednesday. She also began discarding the unnecessary, according to the Kalmans: “in a burst of personal expression, she decided to wear only white.”

Sara kept her belongings in an extraordinarily clean and organized closet. Filled with elegant, minimalist, heavily starched, impeccably pressed and folded all-white clothing, including socks and undergarments, as well as carefully selected objects—from a potato grater to her signature perfume, Chanel No.19—the space was sublime. Upon her death in 2004, her family decided to preserve its pristine contents, hoping to find a way to exhibit them one day.

In 2015, the Mmuseumm, a new type of museum located in a series of unexpected locations founded and curated by Sara’s grandson, Alex Kalman, recreated the space in a popular exhibit—Sara Berman’s Closet—in Tribeca. The installation eventually moved to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The show will run at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles from December 4, 2018 to March 10, 2019; it will open again about a month later at the National Museum of American Jewish History from April 5, 2019 to September 1, 2019.

Inspired by the exhibit, this spectacular illustrated memoir, packed with family photographs, exclusive images, and Maira Kalman’s distinctive paintings, is an ode to Sara’s life, freedom, and re-invention. Sara Berman’s Closet is an indelible portrait of the human experience—overcoming hardship, taking risks, experiencing joy, enduring loss. It is also a reminder of the significance of the seemingly insignificant moments in our lives—the moments we take for granted that may turn out to be the sweetest. Filled with a daughter and grandson’s wry and touching observations conveyed in Maira’s signature script, Sara Berman’s Closest is a beautiful, loving tribute to one woman’s indomitable spirit.


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I received this book in the mail from a publicist at Harper Gallery and was immediately fascinated. Was it a graphic novel? Was it an art book? I didn’t know quite what to make of it so I looked inside and there was no title page. I brought it to work at the library and showed it to Jessica, a co-worker who used to work as a children’s librarian. She said sometimes children’s books put the title page at the back of the book, and sure enough, that’s where it was. What I was looking for was the classification of the book, the Dewey Decimal or Library of Congress numbers.

I was shocked to see it classified as “Juvenile fiction.” Jessica explained that the juvenile designation meant it was geared for young children through third grade, and the book was meant to be read by an adult to the child. At 128 pages, that seemed a bit much to me. I took the book home and sat down and read it.

The text in the book is in cursive writing, most children at that age would not be able to read it themselves and frankly I occasionally had some difficulty myself.  The subject matter, as explained above in the publisher’s synopsis, is not child friendly, to say the least. While I really liked the book and loved the artwork, I could not imagine this as a children’s book. Interestingly, Amazon has it classified thusly:

  • Books > Arts & Photography > Collections, Catalogs & Exhibitions
  • Books > Arts & Photography > Graphic Design > Commercial > Fashion Design
  • Books > Biographies & Memoirs > Specific Groups > Women

Someone took a good look at it and came up with categories that actually fit the book. I’m guessing that the publisher gave it the Juvenile classification and for the life of me, I don’t understand why. And if that’s correct, I’m really puzzled as how I came to be a recipient of a children’s book. I rarely review them and I’m not on most children’s publicists radar. Then again, this book isn’t published by a children’s imprint, but rather an art imprint.

All that said, I loved this book. It is beautiful, the story interesting and compelling, and I think it would make a good gift book for sure. Thank you, Katherine Beitner, for sending this to me. And maybe you can get with the Library of Congress and have the Juvenile designation changed to something more appropriate?

10/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

SARA BERMAN’S CLOSET by Maira Kalman & Alex Kalman. Harper Design (October 30, 2018). ISBN 978-0062846402.  128p.

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New Jewish Fiction Jan-June 2017

May 22, 2017

I recently did a presentation on new Jewish fiction at my library and thought I’d share the list here as well. These are books by Jewish authors or about Jewish subjects that have been published from January through June, 2017.

JANUARY

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Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan by Ruth Gilligan: Interweaves the experiences of a young Lithuanian emigrant in Ireland at the start of the twentieth century, the unlikely friendship between a
young Irish deaf boy and a lonely caretaker in 1958, and the identity crisis of an Irish journalist in the present day. “Gilligan makes a stellar U.S. debut with this wistful and lyrical multigenerational tale linking the struggles of two immigrant Jewish families in Dublin with an Irish Catholic woman’s complicated relationship with her Jewish lover.” Publisher’s Weekly

 

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The Patriots by Sana Krasikov: Three generations of a Jewish-American family endure the difficult challenges of the Depression and the Cold War while pursuing dreams of better lives and reflecting on painful experiences from their earlier lives in Moscow. “In a galvanizing tale of flawed and courageous protagonists, erotic and political passion, and harrowing struggles for survival, Krasikov masterfully and devastatingly exposes the “whole dark clockwork” of totalitarianism and asks what it means to be a hero, a patriot, a human being.” Booklist

 

FEBRUARY

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A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman: An Israeli comedian, a bit past his prime, conveys with semi-questionable humor anecdotes from his violence stricken youth during a night of standup. Meanwhile, while a judge in the audience wrestles with his own part in the comedian’s losses. “Grossman brings real humanity to this heart-wrenching and well-written novel, offering insight into one man’s psychological makeup and how society has damaged him. An excellent translation; highly recommended.” Library Journal

 

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We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter: A novel based on the true story of a Jewish-Polish family recounts how the Kurcs are scattered throughout the world by the horrors of World War II and fight respective hardships to survive, reach safety and find each other. “First-time novelist Hunter got the idea for this book in conversations with her grandmother after unearthing family history of which she’d been ignorant…engrossing read is best recommended for those who enjoy fiction set during World War II and sprawling family sagas.” Library Journal

 

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The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff: The Nightingale meets Water for Elephants in this powerful novel of friendship and sacrifice, set in a traveling circus during World War II. Sixteen-year-old Noa, forced to give up her baby fathered by a Nazi soldier, snatches a child from a boxcar containing Jewish infants bound for a concentration camp and takes refuge with a traveling circus, where Astrid, a Jewish aerialist, becomes her mentor. “Against the backdrop of circus life during the war, the author captures the very real terrors faced by both women as they navigate their working and personal relationships and their complicated love lives while striving for normalcy and keeping their secrets safe.” Publisher’s Weekly

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On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman: Living in her suburban hometown, while her fiance is off on a crowdfunded cross-country walk, Faith discovers mysterious artifacts in her home’s attic that
make her question a promising new relationship and everything she believes. “Lipman is known for her dialogue, so snappy, funny, and real that it cancels out any dubiousness about the kooky mystery plot. Warm, clever, a little silly, a lot of fun.” Kirkus Reviews

 

 

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The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan: “Just because the men have gone to war, why do we have to close the choir? And precisely when we need it most!” Letters and journals reveal the struggles, affairs, deceptions and triumphs of five members of a village choir during World War II as they band together to survive the upheavals of war and village intrigue on the English home front. ” Ryan’s novel, reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, captures the experience of the war from a woman’s perspective. Readers may have come across this kind of story before, but the letter/diary format works well and the plot elements satisfyingly come together.” Publisher’s Weekly

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The Fortunate Ones by Ellen Umansky: One very special work of art—a Chaim Soutine painting —will connect the lives and fates of two different women, generations apart, in this enthralling and
transporting debut novel that moves from World War II Vienna to contemporary Los Angeles. “Umansky’s richly textured and peopled novel tells an emotionally and historically complicated story with so much skill and confidence it’s hard to believe it’s her first.” Kirkus Reviews

 

MARCH

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The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck: Written with the devastating emotional power of The Nightingale, Sarah’s Key, and The Light Between Oceans, Jessica Shattuck’s evocative and utterly enthralling novel offers a fresh perspective on one of the most tumultuous periods in history. At the end of World War II, in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to all of German high society, three widows’ lives and fates become intertwined. “Haunting, a beautifully written and painfully vivid glimpse into one of the most horrific times in world history.” Bookpage

APRIL

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What To Do About The Solomons by Bethany Ball: Reminiscent of Nathan Englander’s For the Relief of Unbearable Urges and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, and told with razor-sharp humor and elegant acuity, What to Do About the Solomons is an exhilarating first book from a bright new star in fiction. A humorous multigenerational family saga set in Israel, New York, and Los Angeles explores the secrets and gossip-filled lives of a kibbutz near Jerusalem. “For all its humor, penetrating disillusionment underlies Ball’s memorable portrait of a family, once driven by pioneer spirit, now plagued by overextension and loss of direction, unsure what to do with its legacy, teetering between resentment, remorse, and resilience.” Publisher’s Weekly

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All the Rivers by Dorit Rabinyan: A controversial, award-winning story about the passionate but untenable affair between an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man, from one of Israel’s most acclaimed novelists. When an Israeli translator named Liat goes to New York for six months of study, she meets Hilmi, a charismatic and kind Palestinian born in Hebron, and their passionate affair grows into something more, forcing them to choose between love and duty. “Bernstein Prize winner Rabinyan’s modern take on forbidden love between young dreamers on opposite sides of a bitter cultural conflict enthralls and delights.” Publisher’s Weekly

MAY

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The Awkward Age by Francesca Segal: “They’ve chosen the one thing that will make our family life impossible. It’s genius really, when you think about it. It’s the perfect sabotage.” After her daughter, Gwen, has trouble adjusting to her new beau, James, Julia Alden must do her best to unite two households, but when Gwen turns for comfort to James’ 17-year-old son, Nathan, the consequences will test her mother’s loyalty and threaten their fragile new happiness. ” In finely wrought prose, with characters who seem to walk beside us and speak aloud, Segal’s latest novel is a sympathetic portrait of the difficulties in finding love and raising teenagers.” Kirkus Reviews

 

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Shtum by Jem Lester: After strategically faking a separation with his wife to influence a tribunal’s decision about the future of his severely autistic son’s education, Ben Jewell moves in with his elderly and cantankerous father and learns harsh lessons about accountability. Funny and heartbreaking in equal measure, Shtum is the impassioned debut novel about fathers and sons and autism with all the heart and verve of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. “Lester’s debut, based on his experience of raising a child with autism, is an emotional and uplifting tale of love and sacrifice.” Publisher’s Weekly

 

JUNE

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The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish: A mysterious collection of papers hidden in a historic London home sends two scholars of Jewish history on an unforgettable quest….”Kadish’s characters are memorable…Kadish leaves no stone unturned in this moving historical epic. Chock-full of rich detail and literary intrigue.” Kirkus Reviews

 

 

 

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The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor: A historical novel of love and survival inspired by real resistance workers during World War II Austria, and the mysterious love letter that connects generations of Jewish families. A heart-breaking, heart-warming read for fans of The NightingaleLilac Girls, and Sarah’s Key. “Excellent writing, unusual storytelling, and sympathetic characters make a winning combination.” Kirkus Reviews

 

 

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The Songs by Charles Elton: Iz Herzl, famed political activist and protest singer, has always told his children that it is the future not the past they should concentrate on. Now, at 80, an almost forgotten figure, estranged from everyone who has ever loved him, his refusal to look back on his extraordinary life leaves his teenage children, the brilliant Rose and her ailing younger brother, Huddie, adrift in myths and uncertainty that cause them to retreat into a secret
world of their own. “A heartbreaking read. Recommended for fans of literary fiction.” Library Journal


KAROLINA’S TWINS by Ronald H. Balson

September 6, 2016

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Attorney Catherine Lockhart and private investigator Liam Taggart are back in Balson’s third novel, this time with a new client, Lena Woodward, an elderly Holocaust survivor. Lena’s son doesn’t want them looking into anything, and forces a competency hearing in hopes of having himself appointed her guardian.

Meanwhile, Lena spends days telling Catherine about her childhood in Poland, the Nazi takeover of her town, her job as a seamstress that saved her from the first wave of Jews sent to concentration camps, her time with the resistance, her eventual trip to a camp, and her life since the war. Along the way, her childhood best friend, Karolina, is present, and the two girls try and save her twin babies during the war.

Lena has no idea what happened to the babies but if they survived, they would be 70 years old and she is determined to find them. The search takes Liam (and the author) to Poland, Israel and Germany, but it is Lena’s story that is so riveting.

In a departure from Balson’s previous novels, much of the story is told in the first person, befitting a book inspired by a Holocaust survivor’s true story. Readers who crave more books like Once We Were Brothers and The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah will be enthralled by Karolina’s Twins.

Copyright ©2016 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association.

9/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

KAROLINA’S TWINS by Ronald H. Balson. St. Martin’s Press (September 6, 2016).  ISBN 978-1250098375. 320p.

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THE NEST by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

April 3, 2016

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This is the story of four siblings who stand to inherit an enormous trust fund when the youngest, Melanie, turns 40 years old. Of course, nothing goes as planned in this dysfunctional family tale of first world problems.

The Plumb patriarch didn’t believe in giving handouts to his kids, he wanted them to stand on their own feet. So he put aside a small amount of money for each of them, but he passed away and his money manager managed to grow the fund into millions of dollars. The Plumb mom, an odd duck to be sure, had control over the fund prior to inheritance. Shortly before the important 40th birthday, the eldest sibling is in a horrible car accident with a waitress – in a compromising position – a waitress who is not his wife. The mom decides to use the nest, as the kids call their trust fund, to pay his medical bills and more importantly, pay off the waitress and help settle his divorce.

The siblings are outraged when they find out their inheritance is but a paltry couple of hundred thousand dollars. They all have been living their lives depending on inheriting a great deal more, so they need to figure out how to live without it.

At times charming, but more often annoying, this was written in the vein of the much better This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper. If dysfunctional family fun is your thing, you’ll love this book.

4/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE NEST by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. Ecco (March 22, 2016).  ISBN 978-0062414212. 368p.

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THE TWO-FAMILY HOUSE by Lynda Cohen Loigman

March 21, 2016

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I am often asked how I decide which books to review. I hear about new books from all kinds of sources, publicists, authors, various review journals, etc. If it sounds like something I would like, or something I think my library patrons would like to know about, I’ll take a look at it. In this case, I heard about this book from the author’s sister-in-law.

I was working in the library when a woman, her mother and young daughter approached the desk. The younger woman asked if I had this book available but when I looked it up, I saw that our copy was checked out and in fact, all the libraries’ copies were checked out and there was a waiting list. Usually the reaction to such news is disappointment, so I was surprised when these women got all excited about it. That’s when I found out the author was related. They told me about the book, but just from the title alone I knew I would want to read it.

I was born in New York, and the first two years of my life were lived in a two-family house. My parents and I lived upstairs, and a nice lady named Mary Jane and her family lived downstairs. Mary Jane’s daughter was my babysitter. I don’t really remember living there, but on an occasional trip to the area my parents would point out the house so I had a good idea of what it looked like – very much like the cover of this book. So I was intrigued.

The story is about a Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York and starts out in the late 1940’s. Abe and Mort are brothers, and when their father passes away they inherit the family business, a box manufacturing company. Abe is a natural born salesman, but Mort loves numbers and wants to become a mathematician. It quickly becomes apparent that Abe cannot run this business alone, so Mort drops out of college to help out. He hates his job and is resentful of his brother for forcing him into this position.

Abe marries Helen, and short time later Mort marries Rose. Abe and Helen soon have four boys, but Mort and Rose have three girls, driving another wedge between the brothers. Mort is jealous that he has no sons to carry on his name and treats his wife appallingly. He is judgmental and controlling, has little use for his daughters, and Rose is docile and sad about it all.

The brothers live in a two-family house, and Rose and Helen become the best of friends, closer even than sisters, helping each other out with the cooking, the kids and everything else. Then they both get pregnant at the same time. A few weeks before their due dates, their husbands are out of town on business when one of the worst blizzards in New York history hits the city. Both women go into labor, ambulances cannot get through nor can the doctor, but luckily there is a midwife a few doors down who delivered a baby and was stuck there because of the storm. The midwife makes her way down the block and delivers the two babies, a boy and a girl. She steps out for supplies, and Helen’s oldest daughter, Judith, comes in and is holding one of the babies. She asks whether it is her cousin or her sibling, and the two women look at each other and a deal is struck.

This story follows the lives of these women, their marriages and families, and how secrets can destroy lives. I laughed, I cried but most of all, I couldn’t put it down. I loved it. If you loved Joshua: A Brooklyn Tale by Andrew Kane, or you are a fan of Naomi Ragen, then this is the book for you.

3/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE TWO-FAMILY HOUSE by Lynda Cohen Loigman. St. Martin’s Press (March 8, 2016).  ISBN 978-1250076922. 304p.

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THE NIGHT, THE DAY by Andrew Kane

April 8, 2015

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This is the third novel from author Andrew Kane, and it is another Jewish themed book. This time it is what I think of as a contemporary Holocaust story, which seems to be something of a trend with Kristin Hannah’s terrific The Nightingale, Susan Wigg’s The Beekeepers Ball, Once We Were Brothers by Ron Balson, Moving Day by Jonathan Stone and others.

Jacques Benoît is a wealthy hotel tycoon so when he attempts suicide, his wife just can’t understand it. The hospital refers him to Dr. Marty Rosen, a renowned psychologist, for continued therapy. Rosen does not find his new patient entirely forthcoming or even truthful, but continues to work with him.

Rosen has a lot going on in his own life. He has been widowed for a couple of years, and is picked up in his favorite bar by a stunning woman with a British accent. He falls hard for her, but when he visits her home he is struck with an uneasy feeling. As a psychologist, he tends to listen to his gut feelings but he can’t quite put his finger on what is wrong.

Some of the other subplots deal with the Vichy government in France during WWII, and the modern day Mossad, but the crux of the story is slowly revealed as Kane weaves a complex and interesting tale with a rather shocking ending.

4/15 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

The Night, the Day by Andrew Kane. Berwick Court Publishing (March 31, 2015). ISBN 978-0990951520. 338p.