MODERN GIRLS by Jennifer S. Brown


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In 1935, as women in America strive for the rights to work, to vote, and to lead independent lives, a Jewish mother and daughter face unwanted pregnancies.

In her debut novel, Brown deftly sketches the historical context of two Lower East Side women’s domestic tribulations, alternating between their stories, reflecting upon the social consequences faced by women in different generations. A familiar nausea dismays Rose, who thought she was finished with childbearing. Who will take care of Izzy, Alfie, and Eugene, not to mention her husband, Ben? Her eldest, Dottie, has always been a second mother to the younger boys. But Dottie could be a working girl. She’s a whiz with numbers and could even go to accounting school someday with the money Rose has squirreled away. Yet Dottie, just promoted to head bookkeeper at Dover Insurance, feels her own dress growing ever tighter. She can’t ignore the signs of pregnancy, which will throw a real wrench into her plans to marry Abe Rabinowitz, her devout and devoted boyfriend. If only Abe hadn’t been so devout, he might have accompanied her to Camp Eden 12 weeks ago, and she might not have found herself in the arms of another man. Things clearly went too far, and now she faces the challenge of seducing Abe, pushing for a quick marriage, and convincing him the child is his. But Abe isn’t cooperating. Will Dottie let Rose arrange an illegal abortion for her? Or will Dottie return to the arms of Willie Klein, the handsome journalist? Willie, however, has a wandering eye, and his career aspirations include traveling to Europe, despite the rising threat of war. Or will Rose find another way to save her daughter’s future?

A cleareyed view of the sharp, difficult choices facing women on the cusp of equality.

Pub Date: April 5th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-451-47712-5
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: New American Library
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2016


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