2016-07-06 / Columns

More reading suggestions for those leisurely summer days


Knowing how much our readers look forward to new novels, we met recently to continue last month’s column highlighting great selections for summer reading.

DEBBIE: If you’re a fan of Dara Horn’s Biblical themed stories, or Alice Hoffman’s lyrical tales of love, you’ll want to read “The Beautiful Possible” by Amy Gottlieb. This first-time novelist creates a rich story of love and longing over a period of 70 years. Protagonists Walter Westhaus, a German refugee of WWII, Sol Kerem, a rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary, and Rosalie, Sol’s fiancée, are friends and study partners. The story follows the three characters as they struggle to find their belief in Judaism and their path in life. As the characters grow, their lives become messy while they exit and enter each other’s lives. They rely on each other for companionship as they continually ask each other “She’ela and Tshuva”: A question and answer game on Jewish spirituality.

AMY: Author Mary Glickman has been writing some high-quality historical fiction over the past several years (“One More River,” “Home in the Morning,” “Marching to Zion”). Her newest novel is “An Undisturbed Peace,” set in the 1820s and 1830s in the southeastern US. Itinerant peddler Abe, an immigrant from the rough, anti- Semitic streets of East London, meets and falls in love with Dark Water, the daughter of a powerful Cherokee chief. She has a mysterious past involving Jacob, a slave living in a city of refuge for criminals. These three form a bond and face their greatest challenge as they are caught up in President Jackson’s Indian Removal Act, which resulted in the forced march westward known as The Trail of Tears. Glickman’s attention to period detail is impressive in this story of people of different cultures who share a history of persecution.

DEBBIE: From the author of “A Fierce Gradient” and “City of Light” comes the epic story “And After the Fire” by Laura Belfer. A musical masterpiece by Johann Sebastian Bach is central to this novel that spans several hundred years. In current day New York, Susanna Kessler is mourning the death of her uncle when she stumbles upon a cantata in his piano bench. Her uncle was an American soldier in WWII who brought the piece home with him after serving in Germany. Susannah attempts to trace the origins of the manuscript and unearths some ugly truths in its history. This story blends a page-turning mystery with real-life figures and events.

AMY: In “The Dinner Party” by Brenda Janowitz, The Rothschilds are coming to seder—yes, those Rothschilds, and Sylvia Gold is determined to have everything run perfectly at her Greenwich, CT home. Her youngest daughter Becca is dating the Rothschilds’ son Henry, and he and his family are joining the Golds for the holiday. But not everything is as perfect as Sylvia would like. And is Henry really such a great catch? There’s plenty of humor here, but also an honest look at family relationships. Take this one to the beach and enjoy!

MINNA: “The Hired Girl” by Laura Amy Schlitz was inspired by the journal of the author’s grandmother; it is the tale in diary form of a 14-yearold farm girl from Pennsylvania who makes her way to Baltimore in 1911 and becomes the titular hired girl to a Jewish family. Winner of the 2016 National Jewish Book Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature, this one may appeal to adults as well as its intended young teen audience. “Girl in the Blue Coat” by Monica Hesse is another coming-of-age story, this one set in Amsterdam in 1943. As in “The Hired Girl,” our heroine, Hanneke, is not Jewish but instead is asked to search for missing 15-year-old Jewish Mirjam in Nazi-occupied Netherlands. “Anna and the Swallow Man” by Gavriel Savit is also set during WWII. The story begins in Krakow in 1939 when the Gestapo arrests Anna’s linguist father. Following seven-year-old Anna over the next four years, this debut novel reads like a fairy tale as Anna and the mysterious Swallow Man make their way through the woods of Poland and encounter a wide assortment of characters. This will appeal to lovers of magical realism as well as teens.

For more information, contact us: Debbie Drachman at the JCC (ddrachman@jfedsnj.org); Minna Siegel at Temple Beth Sholom (msiegel@tbsonline.org); and Amy Kaplan at Cong. Beth El (akaplan@bethelsnj.org

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