“An interesting read about an Satmar family beginning in Transylvania in 1944 and ending in Manhattan in 2005”Carol H wrote this review Wednesday, August 8, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Really enjoyed the look inside the life of Hasidic Jews, the traditions and practices of their faith and how it is walked out every day. ”Karla C wrote this review Tuesday, August 7, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“3-4* Last 1/5th of book gets confusing. Writing & skips around.”Mary W wrote this review Friday, August 3, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Decisions have consequences generations later”Susan A wrote this review Wednesday, July 25, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“This is a story of an orthodox Jewish from WWI to present. It is focused very carefully on these individuals and does not try to tell a broader story. Some of the background information is factual. The author left such a family to avoid an arranged marriage, so it is to be expected that she has a bias. Even so, there were many details of that lifestyle that I found interesting and had not known before. The story itself is enough to pull one in. And there are questions that beg to be answered - for instance, just where does religion end and love of family begin? I enjoyed this book and would recommend it.”Rosemary C wrote this review Thursday, June 7, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“An amazing book that totally gripped me. However, it is not a happy book. The rigid adherence to religious views brings sadness and tragedy to the families portrayed.”Donna DesRoches wrote this review Tuesday, May 22, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I started this book on Friday morning and I had to make myself put it down to go to bed Friday night. I then ignored my wife Saturday morning to finish. I raced through this book because I loved the two main(ish) female characters; their world might have been alien to me but I felt like I knew them, and I had to know where they ended up.
This is essentially a family saga, beginning around World War II and ending in about 2007. Starting in Romania in the late 1920s, the story roughly follows two Jewish children, Josef and Mila, who are part of a conservative Hasidic sect. Orphaned by violent antisemitism and World War II, Josef and Mila are taken in by Zalman Stern and his family; Josef is eventually sent to New York City to study with the community's beloved rabbi while Mila moves with the Sterns to Paris. Mila becomes close to Zalman's daughter Atara.
Faced with the secular world so directly, the Sterns also struggle with the changing mores and values in the Jewish community -- Zionism, reform movements, lingering antisemitism -- and eventually both Mila and Atara are sent to a conservative seminary to study before their arranged marriages. It is there that Atara and Mila discover they want different lives: Atara wants to go to university while Mila wants only to make a good marriage.
This might seem like a very simple set-up but I'm not conveying the real heft and beautiful mood of the story. Mila's marriage is as typical and atypical as one might imagine, and the results of her choices are staggering. I teared up more than once but had to keep reading -- I was absolutely in love with Mila and Atara, and I wished this novel was double the length so I could have spent more time with them. (My sole complaint, I suppose, is that Atara's side wasn't fleshed out as much as I would have liked, but that would have derailed this book's arc.)
This is a novel about community, belonging, faith and family, about love and desperation and everything in between. It's a meaty story that reads airy, and despite the fact that I know nothing about this religious community, I understood and empathized with the characters. They were so real, and so human, and I they captured me from the first page. I miss them already.”