Sunday, June 04, 2017

Romi’s Reading Round-Up for April and May

It’s time again to talk about books! I’ve been reading a lot of interesting ones lately and I’m exciting to share with you. So, let’s begin.
Books I Loved

I knew I would love The Two Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman and I wasn’t disappointed. I love books that are set at the time that my grandparents would have been raising my parents in New York, and this is the backdrop to this lovely and heart-wrenching look at two families and the irreparable choices that they make.

Sweetgirl by Travis Moulhauser was one of those $1 books that I bought on a whim. Wow! It’s an incredible story of a young girl who is challenged to succeed in impossible circumstances. It’s beautifully and realistically written.

The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain was another of those $1 gems. It started from such a simple premise; a man finds a woman’s purse that has been abandoned after a robbery and he tries to reunite the two. The simple story was so beautifully drawn.

Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon was a powerful story told by an admittedly unreliable narrator. I love unreliable narrators. 
Finally, I loved The 28th of Iyar by Rabbi Emanuel Feldman, and I’ve written a separate blog all about this book.

Books I Enjoyed
I can’t love every book that I read, but if I don’t want to throw it across the room, it was probably at least worth the ride.

Mrs. Kimble by Jennifer Haigh was an interesting idea. It’s a look at three women who end up marrying the same man (not at the same time, of course) and the psychological toll he takes on them.

I finished Following Atticus by Tom Ryan (which I mentioned in the last blog). I loved the idea of a depressed, overweight middle-aged man transforming his life by hiking with his dog. I didn’t love the repetitive nature of the hikes and I definitely didn’t want to hear about the dog’s cancer story. Sorry people – but we all have our breaking points.

An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff was a lovely true story of a wealthy businesswoman who befriended a young destitute child and the relationship they formed. There were definitely places where I wanted to sit the author down and yell at her (as apparently many people did if you look at the book reviews) but it was an inspirational story overall.

If you want to be tortured and have trouble going to sleep at night…then Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris is for you. A bit over-the-top for me, but as thrillers go, I guess it was a pretty good one.

In the Light of the Garden by Helen Burch tried much too hard and fell flat.

This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman wasn’t the greatest book, but it was certainly interesting to see how one mistake can lead to so many problems; it was quite timely a piece as I raise young boys in this social media infatuated age.

The Doctor’s Wife by Elizabeth Brundage was a bit overdrawn but it was an entertaining psychological thriller about an interesting topic.

Ten Thousand Lovers by Ravel Edeet is certainly not my typical book since it was about a leftist visitor to Israel in the 70s and her experiences, but I did enjoy it quite a bit.

Books I Wanted to Throw Across the Room

Provenance by Donna Drew Sawyer: Good lord! I loved the idea of this book about what it would have been like for a black man passing as a white one. But could this book have been more poorly written or more stupidly plotted?

A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve : Oh Anita. This book had so much potential about a terrible accident that happens during a hiking trip and how it pulls apart the people who were there. Except that description only accounted for about 5% of the book. The rest made me want to throw it across the room.

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick: It was hard to care about any of the characters here. Period.

Next Up

I’m currently reading Allie and Bea by Catherine Ryan Hyde. I’m enjoying this book, although it’s not one of her best. If you’ve never read anything by her – do so! Her books are beautiful and cover poignant topics (and incidentally, she’s very accessible on Facebook and writes great posts!)

I’m also reading The Healing by Jonathan Odell and loving this story of black midwives during the slave era.

Happy Reading Everyone! Love to know what you have cooking!

Thursday, June 01, 2017

A Snapshot Into History

I’ve read many accounts of the Six Day War, as I’m sure many of you have, but I’ve never read a first- person account – until now. Rabbi Emanuel Feldman’s 50th anniversary edition of his book, The 28th of Iyar, is an excellent addition to the canon of literature about this pivotal moment in history. Rabbi Feldman brings a fresh perspective with his book, written as a first-hand account through the eyes of an American in Israel. 

There are many details here with which most of us are familiar. We know about the call-ups, about the streets empty of able-bodied people for weeks as everyone waits. We are familiar with the dread that people felt and the overwhelming feeling of betrayal that Israel faced, realizing that no other country cared enough to help.

What Rabbi Feldman brings to the stage is his unique perspective. He lived through these days as an American on sabbatical in Israel. He could have left at any moment, and was actually encouraged by his family in the States and by the American government to get out. Yet he and his family stayed; in doing so, they lived through some of the most significant, terrifying, exhilarating and ultimately victorious days in our history.

While reading his journal, I was moved and surprised by how much I related to many of his experiences, as an American Olah living here 50 years after the war. At the beginning of the book, writing about the efficiency with which the call-up takes place, Rabbi Feldman writes, “In view of the pathetic bumbling, hopeless red-tape, and buck-passing bureaucracy of almost every aspect of public and governmental life in Israel, the remarkable efficiency of the mobilization is miraculous.” While the bureaucracy has certainly improved, I’m often surprised by the juxtaposition of inefficiency and efficiency in our daily lives.

There are so many anecdotes with which I can relate, even so many years later. I’ve always been touched by the news we still hear every hour, on the hour, in Israel. It amazes me that the country is still small enough to have a national news review, and that the situation here is still ever-changing enough to need this review hourly. In the middle of the book, he wrote, 

“Every few hours the radio carries messages to and from the soldiers and their families: ‘Chaim Zohar’s wife and daughters from Ein Hanetziv wish Chaim well and ask him to write.’ ‘Yosef Kohen is fine and sends love to his family in Haifa and tells them not to worry, everything is b’seder.’”
Even with today’s hyper-connected world, I can picture this happening.

In one humorous account, he recalls going to the post office to send a telegram, and watching as the post office clerk changes every person’s message to include only positive alerts. As Rabbi Feldman explains, “He edits and deletes and rewrites and censors – a word here, a phrase there. If the outside world this morning is receiving unusually ecstatic messages from a country at war, they have this clerk to thank.”  

Short and easy to read, the book is uplifting and inspirational. It’s certainly a great reminder to those of us who have moved to Israel and set our future with this tumultuous, miraculous country. It’s a life-affirming account of one family’s tenacity and victory, along with a nation’s.