Tag Archives: Eastern European Jews

Letters Across the Sea Book Review

War has a way to pulling us apartment, forcing us to see someone else as “the other”. It can also bring us together and remind us of our common humanity.

Letters Across the Sea, by Genevieve Graham, was published earlier this year. In Toronto in the summer of 1933, Hannah Dreyfus and Molly Ryan are best friends. Both the grandchildren of immigrants (Eastern European Jews and Irish Catholic respectively), they are friends in a time in which antisemitism is rising in their hometown. Though Molly only sees her BFF and has a crush on Max, Hannah’s big brother, other people are not so tolerant of their differences. Things come to a boil in August during the Christie Pits riot, forcing Hannah and Molly to go their separate ways.

Six years later, World War II is on the horizon. After years of toiling at any job she could get, Molly has finally gotten her dream job as a journalist. Men from across the country have enlisted. Among them are Max and Molly’s brothers. When the letters from the soldiers start to arrive, Molly must contend with the past and the unspoken truth that has been buried since that night in 1933.

This book is amazing. Graham’s eye for the historical facts while creating a fictional world is top notch. I was fully invested in the story, hoping that Molly and Max would get together while praying that the male characters would come home. It was a history lesson in the best way, learning about this time in Canadian history without feeling like the reader is sitting in a university lecture hall.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Her Promised Road: A Novel Book Review

Sometimes, we have to make choices in life. These choices are not easy and no matter what decision we make, we loose something or someone in the process.

Efrat Israeli’s new book, Her Promised Land: A Novel is about these hard decisions. The book is loosely based on the life and career of the late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir. Devorah Abramson, like millions of Eastern European Jews, emigrated to the United States in the years leading up the first World War. Raised in the Midwest, she made Aaliyah (emigrated) to Israel when it was still ruled under the British Mandate.

In the early 1930’s, with her young children in tow and her marriage slowly fading away, Devorah is sent to the United States to be the emissary for the Women’s Worker’s Council in Palestine. Her goal is to not only bring in money, but to turn hearts and minds to the idea of a revival of the Jewish homeland. She often finds herself torn between her political mission, her children and her heart.

The idea of this book is interesting. Golda Meir was and still is a unique figure in not just Israeli politics, but world politics.  Using Golda as a mold for the fictional Devorah was very brave on the part of the author. It’s very difficult, when using a woman like Golda as the inspiration for a fictional character. One on hand, research is required to make sure that the details are accurate. However, this is a novel and not a documentary. The reader has to be taken in by the story and the character to finish the novel.

Did I recommend it?Yes, but only if the reader knows something about Golda and Israel before 1948. If not, then I would recommend that any potential readers first learn about Golda and then read about her fictional counterpart.

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