A strong, solidly realized chronicle of the coming-of-age of Samuel Rubinowitz, twelve in 1903 and the high-spirited despair of his stern, narrowly pious Russian-Jewish father, and fifteen at the end when he leaves home for America. Near the start, Samuel takes his brother's death from smallpox as God's punishment for his own inattention at cheder, and his ensuing diligence earns him a recommendation to the Yeshiva. In both schools, Samuel's intellectual questioning during the recitations from the Talmud is made intensely vital; then comes a visit to more advanced, better-off relatives whose bookcases seem to contain the entire Enlightenment. Samuel dives into the forbidden secular books, joins a subversive young people's reading group, participates in a controversial resistance to a peasants' pogrom, leaves the Yeshiva (which has become too restricting), and becomes active in the Jewish bund working with the Revolution. There is much more in this unusually full reconstruction of family life, social and political realities, and one boy's growth. And if his departure for the ""golden land"" seems an ideologically unsatisfactory conclusion, you won't question it--for in Heyman's hands, each development seems not an invention of hers but simply the way it happened, just as the background events and conditions seem not so much researched (as is the case) as remembered.