2017-10-25 / Local News

Cherry Hill resident’s book about her mother a true labor of love


HOMETOWN: Cherry Hill

FAMILY: Husband Steve; Children: Todd “Chaim,” Jeff, and Emily Lerman; 13 grandchildren

HOBBIES: Writing, singing and spending time with grandchildren

FAVORITE BOOK GENRES: Memoirs and mysteries

Over the past 16 years, Cherry Hill resident Carol Harkavy worked on and off on a manuscript about her mother. She was never certain there would be much of an audience for the book outside her circle of friends and Jewish women of her generation.

But topping the bestseller list was never really the point of writing “Rosie and Me,” a memoir capturing both the life and times of a dynamic woman who faced challenges with resiliency and grace as well as the loving bond between mother and daughter. Anecdotes paint a picture of Jewish New York of yesteryear. Yiddish phrases are sprinkled throughout.

“Some have called it a love story to my mother,” said Harkavy, 73, a Cherry Hill resident who is active in Katz JCC fitness classes and the Singing Hearts of South Jersey choral group. “I’m just so happy to have gotten her story out there.”

When she finally self-published the book earlier this year—just in time for Mother’s Day—she was pleasantly surprised by the positive response from an audience far wider than she expected.

“It has transcended so many different nationalities, ages, genders, people with physical disabilities, people who love their mother and people who hated their mother,” said Harkavy, a native New Yorker who moved to South Jersey with her husband Steve in retirement to be closer to the family of her daughter Emily Lerman. “It’s touched so many people in so many different ways and that’s been so heart-warming to me.”

Harkavy started writing almost immediately after her mother passed away in 2001. A life-long keeper of personal journals, she drew on these diaries for source material. And the words poured out.

This was one of many times that Harkavy took up the manuscript but didn’t follow through. To motivate herself, she took courses on writing and publishing through the years.

What finally pushed her to complete the book was the death of her sister-in-law. This lovely woman, whom Harkavy had known since both were teenagers, was the picture of health until she learned that the pains she was experiencing were as a result of end-stage liver cancer.

“That was a kick in the rear,” she said. “I decided that no matter what, I was going to publish this book by Mother’s Day.”

True to her word, the book was available on Amazon.com on May 5. Copies will be for sale at the Katz JCC in Cherry Hill during the Bank of America Festival of Arts, Books and Culture Nov. 5-12.

Patty Palese, a JCC fitness instructor, was one of the first to read it and has been one of Harkavy’s biggest fans, talking up the book in her classes.

“At first I was questioning myself,” said Palese. “Am I feeling so connected because it’s Carol and I like Carol? But I realized halfway through that no—it was the book. I didn’t want to finish it and say goodbye and not hear anymore from her and her family. There was something very real about them.”

A true labor of love, Harkavy felt Rosie’s presence when the book was finally for sale.

“I looked up to heaven and said, ‘Mom, I finally got your story out,’” she recalled. 

Return to top