Firstly I wish to thank Andrea Thatcher of Smith Publicity for inviting me on the Blog Tour for How to Make a Life by Florence Reiss Kraut.
ABOUT THE BOOK
When Ida and her daughter Bessie flee a catastrophic pogrom in Ukraine for America in 1905, they believe their emigration will ensure that their children and grandchildren will be safe from harm. But choices and decisions made by one generation have ripple effects on those who come later—and in the decades that follow, family secrets, betrayals, and mistakes made in the name of love threaten the survival of the family: Bessie and Abe Weissman’s children struggle with the shattering effects of daughter Ruby’s mental illness, of Jenny’s love affair with her brother-in-law, of the disappearance of Ruby’s daughter as she flees her mother’s legacy, and of the accidental deaths of Irene’s husband and granddaughter.
A sweeping saga that follows three generations from the tenements of Brooklyn through WWII, from Woodstock to India, and from Spain to Israel, How to Make a Life is the story of a family who must learn to accept each other’s differences—or risk cutting ties with the very people who anchor their place in the world.
From the very first sentence, everything around me just faded until all that was left was the book in my hand and the desperation of Chaya Amdur her terrified ten-year-old daughter Beilah and her sleeping 3-month-old baby, Feige. My heart was racing because it was obvious something unthinkable had happened. When they climbed out of the cellar what they found was horrific. They had lost their world. It was 1905 and they had to flee the pogrom that was sweeping through Ukraine. They gathered as much as they could, they had not been poor and left for America onboard a ship.
This incredible story continues through the generations until it concludes in 2012. One hundred and seven years of family tragedies and there were so many of them, the joys, the fallouts and the love. Chaya had changed their names when they arrived in America and they became Ida, Bessie and Fanny but tragedy was just waiting for them around the corner. For the second time tears blurred every word that I was reading.
Each chapter centres around one of the family members, either born into the family or married into it. In the front of the book is a family tree, which I found tremendously helpful to keep track of which line they were descending from. As in every family, each person is very different. Ruby is a colourful character that suffers from mental illness all of her life. I saw her through the eyes of others but also from inside her too.
Their stories took me from Brooklyn around the world. I laughed with them, cried so many times and saw some of them grow old, while others weren’t so lucky. Tragedies pulled them together and at times drove them apart. Religion was always there, stronger with some than with others. This is an outstanding story told with raw emotions. I didn’t want it to end but I loved how it ended.
Highly recommended. Unforgettable!! My top read of this year.
I wish to thank Andrea Thatcher of Smith Publicity for a copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Florence Reiss Kraut is a native New Yorker, raised and educated in four of the five boroughs of New York City. She holds a BA in English and a master’s in social work. She worked for thirty years as a clinician, a family therapist, and the CEO of a family service agency before retiring to write and travel widely. She has published personal essays for The New York Times and her fiction has appeared in journals including The Evening Street Press, SNReview, The Westchester Review, and others. She has three married children and nine grandchildren and lives with her husband in Rye, New York. –This text refers to the paperback edition.