Between 1850 and 1930, millions immigrated to America, looking for a better life and a brighter future.
Clara Kelley was one of them. She is the heroine in Marie Benedict’s 2018 book, Carnegie’s Maid. In her native Ireland, Clara knows nothing but poverty and hunger via the great potato famine. The daughter of farming family, she has nothing to lose when she emigrates to America. But she has everything to lose when she takes the identity of another woman with the same name who died on the voyage to America. The job she has taken is that of lady’s maid to the imperious mother of steel magnate and future philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Mrs. Carnegie knows what she wants in a lady’s maid and makes no bones about firing girls who do not meet her exacting standards.
Intelligent and very capable, Clara becomes friends with her mistress’s son. As they become closer and their friendship becomes something more, the harder it becomes for Clara’s secret to stay a secret. Will her true identity ever be revealed and will the consequences of that revelation be?
I loved this book. Ms. Benedict has a way of immediately drawing her readers in and telling the stories of women whose stories would normally not be told. Though the narrative has a Jane Eyre-ish undercurrent, it does not end the way I would have expected the narrative to end.
When we lose someone whom we love, the grieving process is a personal one. Some people retreat into themselves and the past. Others carry on as if their loved one is still around.
In the new movie, To Dust, Shmuel (Géza Röhrig) is a Hasidic Cantor living in upstate New York who has just lost in his wife. Secretly obsessing that his wife’s soul is tormented as her body decays, he seeks to calm his obsession via science. This leads him to Albert (Matthew Broderick), a science Professor who teaches at the local community college. Initially, Albert is hesitant to help Shmuel. But then he something changes and Albert is all in with Shmuel’s quest. Will Shmuel find out the answers he is seeking and how will Albert help in his cause?
Director and c0-screenwriter Shawn Snyder was inspired to write the film after the death of his mother from cancer. While it falls into the buddy comedy genre, the film is not the standard buddy comedy. The comedy is very dry and is launched by Shmuel’s grief and his intense preoccupation of finding the answers to his questions. As a person of the Jewish faith, I appreciated that the creative team treated the Hasidic characters with respect instead of being presented to the audience as 2-D caricatures. If I had to name my favorite aspect of the film, it would be that Shmuel’s grief is universal.
My only reservation about this film is that not only is it a little long, but it’s not for everyone. While I appreciate dry comedy, it was a little too dry for my taste.