Monday, January 05, 2015
"How did you get to be the woman you are today?"
When Addie Baum's 22-year-old granddaughter, Ava, asks her grandmother this very question, she is regaled with the wonderful narrative of Addie's life, reliving every vivid moment from the time she was 15, a young Jewish girl growing up in Boston during the early 20th century. Addie Baum, now 85, was a smart and spunky young spitfire, with progressive ideas for the time she was living in. We get to see the world through her eyes, and to experience many world changing events going on around her, from child labor and women's suffrage to fighting with her parents to allow her to remain in school. She's loved, she's lost, but she was always been her own person. She's a strong likeable character with a knack for telling a story, which I suppose is really the author's knack, but the way it was written, you never felt like she was reciting, but definitely reliving.
This was such an interesting and engaging read, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this book since it's not a genre I normally read. Historical fiction, yes, although there's usually an element of fantasy or steampunk to my usual historical reads. This book, while still fiction, was simply a well-written piece of fiction told in an autobiographical memoir style.
Since it took place in Boston, and setting was such an important element to this story, I knew I had to read it. I've been in California five years now, but I often long for home and there's lots of things I miss about New England, and Boston in particular. So much of this story elicited strong feelings of place within me. I could truly picture myself walking along the streets of the North End, small little tenements lining each side, or down the cafe-lined streets of Hanover Street. The author certainly has a knack for emoting with a place, and I loved experiencing it through this novel.
I don't know a lot about Jewish families and traditions, having only experienced them from the outside, but so much of the Jewish family dynamics reminded me of my own Italian roots, from which I'm descended on my mother's side. I truly felt like I took a very entertaining, and yes educational, trip through history after reading this book, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone.