In this debut memoir, the only surviving member of a dysfunctional family explores the internal demons that plagued her loved ones.
“I’m the last person alive in my immediate family,” Bloom tells readers right up front. Before finishing the first page, the audience knows that both of the author’s brothers, Marshall and Alan, committed suicide. Her father was a thriving, functional alcoholic. And her mother, dutiful keeper of the hearth and social propriety, was often consumed either by sadness or rage. As the last in her line—the last to remember and be able to tell their story—Bloom looks back to gain greater understanding and acceptance of a nuclear family filled with dissension, miscommunication, and alienation. She begins by describing her grandparents. Her mother’s parents (Celia and Hyman Gershkovitz) and her dad’s father (Pizer Bloom) were Jewish Polish immigrants. Her paternal grandmother (Ida Bloom) was born in New York City but was the daughter of Jewish Polish immigrants. Both families wound up in Denver, where their respective offspring, Lillian Gershkovitz and Sam Bloom, met. The author’s parents wed in 1937, and she, their middle child and only daughter, was born in 1941. Turbulence at home and the social upheavals of the ’60s sent the siblings in different directions. Bloom’s articulate narrative follows a general chronological order but also moves back and forth in time as she examines her relationship with each family member. The account is peppered with some singular, intimate portraits of Denver’s mid-20th-century Orthodox Jewish community. Recalling a visit to her maternal grandparents, whom she called Zayda and Bubbie, Bloom writes: “Peering in the bathtub, I saw a large, live fish. Zayda had bought a carp so Bubbie could make gefilte fish for Pesach.” But these lighter episodes are the exception. Mostly, this is an exposure of the dynamics that left three adult offspring (all of them childless) feeling isolated and insecure. Of her own survival and success, Bloom concludes: “I...had the better luck and timing.” Family photographs reveal the happier moments.
Poignant and raw; a commemoration of a family.