A woman seeks to escape her humdrum life in World War II-era Brooklyn.
It is 1943, and 25-year-old Judith Weissman is not happy. Despite having a loving husband (Marvin, a butcher) and a stable job (secretary at an insurance office), she cannot let go of the world-changing dreams she harbored as a teenager. This contrast is coming into sharp relief now, as the war is foremost in everybody’s mind, and the government and media are urging Americans to contribute to the war effort. But what can Judith do, trapped in an insurance office? Worse, Marvin has been classified as 4F, and his moping about while his friends are off becoming war heroes, coupled with his mother’s persistent badgering about their lack of children, adds to her misery. One June evening, when Judith returns home to learn that her neighbor–a woman with whom Judith felt a kinship–has committed suicide, Judith is overwhelmed by a need for change. Conveniently, Bobby Levitt, an old high-school crush, has just returned from service in Algeria, disfigured and mentally scarred from what he experienced. Judith falls into a torrid affair with Bobby, lying to her husband, her boss and everybody else in the neighborhood in the process. Meanwhile, in a parallel narrative, Judith’s brother Sammy, a handsome but lazy charmer, believes that his ticket to success is through the craps game run by the Jewish mob at a local bar. As Judith’s affair becomes more and more heated, Sammy plunges into debt to the mobsters. Unfortunately, Sammy’s character remains undeveloped, and his clichÃ©-riddled narrative detracts from the far more interesting and well-rendered tale of Judith’s sexual and emotional awakening. Indeed, outside of Judith, the characters are paper-thin stereotypes–the mobster henchmen; the good-hearted candy-store owner; the nosey neighborhood women; the emotionally scarred veteran; the shrewish mother-in-law–failing to provide the ballast needed to stabilize Judith’s engaging story.
A heartfelt and ambitious novel that doesn’t reach its potential.