The Devils Arithmetic- Book And Movie Review

When your a teenager, family dinners are forced upon us, whether we like it or not.

In Jane Yolen’s 2000 novel, The Devil’s Arithmetic, Hannah Stern is a modern teenager who has grown up with her family’s stories of the Holocaust. After hearing them so many times, Hannah has become bored listening to them. Opening the door to Elijah during her family’s annual Passover Seder, Hannah finds herself in 1940’s Europe. World War II has started and the lives of Europe’s Jews are about to change for the worst.

In 1999, a TV movie based on the book aired with Kirsten Dunst in the lead role.

What I like about the book and the movie is that Hannah is just an ordinary teenage girl. She starts off as spoiled and unappreciative and only learns to appreciate her heritage when she relives the horrors of the Holocaust.

I highly recommend both.


RIP Jonathan Crombie

Jonathan Crombie passed away today.

To the millions of readers who have read Anne Of Green Gables and watched the miniseries based on the books, Jonathan will always be remembered as Gilbert Blythe.

Gilbert starts out as Anne’s tormentor. He goads her and gets her in trouble. He will soon realize that he is in love with Anne, but Anne takes a little bit of time to  return Gilbert’s affections. For many young female bookworms Gilbert Blythe was our first literary crush.

My thoughts and prayers are with those who knew him best. RIP.

Brooklyn Story Book Review

One of the quotes about writing that is floating around the internet is as follows:

Anyone who survives childhood has enough material to write for the rest of her life- Flannery O’Connor

In Bensonhurst, Brooklyn circa 1978, 15 year old Samantha Conti wants to be a writer. According to Ms. O’Connor, Samantha will have plenty of ideas to choose from.

Suzanne Corso’s 2011 novel, Brooklyn Story, is a coming of age tale told from Samantha’s point of view several years after the events in the book have taken place.

Her home life is dysfunctional with a capital D. Samantha’s father, a man of Sicilian origins, divorced his wife and abandoned his family years ago. Samantha has not seen her father since she was a little girl. Her mother, born into a Jewish family, converted to Catholicism at the start of her brief marriage. Samantha’s mother lives off welfare and has health issues stemming from substance abuse. Thankfully, Samantha does have positive adult role models in her life. Her grandmother lives with them and is helping to raise her granddaughter, she has also the family priest and her favorite teacher providing the emotional support that is not coming from her mother.

Samantha’s best friend, Janice who is three years older than her, introduces her to Tony. Tony is slightly older than Samantha. He is charming, attractive and attentive. He also has a temper and is a bit on the possessive side. Still, Samantha starts to see Tony. But the relationship will become questionable and Samantha will soon have to choose between her dreams of becoming a writer in Manhattan or staying in Brooklyn with Tony.

I initially picked up this book because I am very familiar with the part of Brooklyn that Ms. Corso uses as a backdrop. What I read was a young woman’s coming of age story that felt very real. The reader does not have to know Brooklyn or have lived during the late 1970’s to appreciate and understand Samantha’s journey.  While the thirty something woman that I am wanted to warn Samantha that Tony was bad news, the former teenager in me understood Samantha’s interest in him.

This book is nothing short of amazing and I highly recommend it.

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