MRS. HORNSTIEN by Fredrica Wagman


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 Philadelphia-based shortie by novelist Wagman (Peachy, 1993) that asks the pressing question: Can Marty Fish, 17, fathered by a Russian Jew, find happiness with a mother-in-law like Mrs. Hornstien? Wealthy Albert Hornstien, 29, brings Marty home to meet his old, massive, warm cuddly octopus of a mother, Golda, who suckers Marty with endless rags-to-riches family history and the story of her own hard youth before husband Oscar became ``THE BIGGEST MANUFACTURER OF SMALL CIGARS in the entire WORLD.'' Golda has the gift of getting everyone to acquiesce to her plans. And, as it turns out, she has plans aplenty for Marty, who dreams of going to Israel. Marty's money-mad widowed mother, however, puts her foot down and demands that she marry. Get a couple of million first, and slip me four grand a month as well, she tells her, then you can go to Israel. So Marty marries, goes off on a world tour with Albert, and, when they return home, tells her husband what her mother has demanded. Albert quietly agrees, while Golda sets about making Marty over in her own image. The story at this point leaps 30 years forward, to the same apartment. Golda is many years dead, and Benjamin, Marty's beloved son, has arrived to introduce his own fiancÇe to his mother. The moment startles Marty into realizing that she has become, without planning it, a matriarch in Golda's mode. Though Mrs. Hornstien was always a tough, unsparing survivor, offering sentiments like ``Survival is the first rule of life,'' she had come on her deathbed to a philosophy of compassion. And she had some telling moments: ``After the children leave home, Mrs. Hornstien used to say . . . their bedrooms . . . become such unbearably desolate shells that even the sunlight in there turns into a kind of brown, lifeless haze.'' A consumer fantasy, yes, but this bologna wrapped up like a Black Forest ham should sell. (First printing of 100,000; $100,000 ad/promo; author tour)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-8050-4956-8
Page count: 117pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1997


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