RELATIVES by Davida Rosenblum


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Memories of a Hungarian Jewish extended family entrenched in Brooklyn during the Depression: bittersweet, flavorful, and affecting. Most haunting is young Davida's vain, Rosicrucian father, whose ambition for his children crippled his relationship with them; once he even had a children's program emcee instruct Davida over the radio to stand up straight. Aunts, uncles, and grandmothers are viewed from the child's now merciless, now bemused perspective. Aunt Fannie, whose only words to husband Moe were snarls of contempt, nevertheless leapt passionately into his grave: ""It was almost certainly, I feel, a statement about marriage, if only I could figure it out."" Here, too, is beloved uncle Jake who discovered pennies behind his niece's ear; Ralph, the reluctant blind date who became Davida's suitor after a friend's grandmother produced two glasses of an ""aphrodisiac"" called rosewater; and Grandma Gottfried, who presided self-righteously over Sunday dinners that can only be described as explosive: ""Two of my uncles once came to blows over whether Rudy Vallee was older or younger than Al Jolson."" The generational follow-through is less satisfying: Davids and Ralph had two children, with whom she unwittingly repeated her father's mistakes; the couple first separated, then reunited on their 25th anniversary; Davids got a Ph.D. at age 50. With hindsight, she discerns her likeness to the relatives her father always tried to disclaim: a fair enough revelation, but a snapshot of less import to the reader than the original prints from which it's drawn.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1979
Publisher: Dial