I spent last Saturday on the beach reading about this complicated, large Brooklyn Jewish family in the 1950s. I loved getting into the minds of these well-drawn characters and watching how attitudes and thinking changed along with the changing times.
The main characters are two married couples – brothers Mort and Abe, and their respective wives, Rose and Helen. Two of the children – Judith and Nathalie – are also brought in as narrators, and provide a new perspective to the story.
Mort and Abe work together in the box factory they inherited from their father, and they purchased the home where they now raise their rapidly-growing family. These families include three daughters for Mort and Rose and four sons for Abe and Helen. At the outset, Rose and Helen are as close as sisters as they raise their children in one, close-knit environment.
But a decision taken when the two women are in labor during a blizzard starts to slowly chip away at this idyllic facade and the ties that bind these two women.
This novel does an excellent job of examining the strains this choice places on these two women, their husbands and their children.
The multi-narrator telling of this story is highly effective, and provides us insight into these characters from multiple angles. My one gripe is that the wives may not have been developed enough as characters, and I found myself confusing them more often than not as I switched to their chapters. Nevertheless, this was a beautifully told story, and one that keeps you quickly turning pages.