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Inspired by family legends of life in pre-Revolutionary Russia, Edelson creates a refreshingly earthy first novel featuring an obstinate provincial Jewish woman whose children are destined to emigrate to America. The Jews of Dagda might have predicted that pretty young Malkeh, daughter of an impoverished local teacher, would not be satisfied with the traditional life of the generations of women who preceded her. To begin with, proud and headstrong Malkeh married an itinerant tailor, Yoysef Mandelkern, for the simple reason that he loved her. And once married, Malkeh proceeds to found a school for Jewish women, allow the steward of the local estate to become her patron, and raise a brood of adventurous children who will stir up att kinds of gossip at home before they set sail for America. Not att of Malkeh's actions are appreciated, even by her family--her children's frequent complaints that she neglects them in favor of her work seem deliberately aimed at today's readers--and there are social repercussions when one son joins the Revolution and a daughter lives in sin with a decidedly non-Jewish gambler. But, fortunately, the second generation's chutzpa is perfectly suited to the life they will design for themselves in San Francisco--the city to which they escape one by one. Having weathered pogroms, epidemics, war in their native Russia, and crippling poverty in their adopted land, the Mandelkerns have learned the value and importance of family solidarity. Edelson's exploration of the wisdom and generosity with which her characters accommodate one another's shortcomings makes this a satisfying tale. Life-affirming fiction--sentimental, perhaps, but enjoyably so.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1992
Page count: 720pp
Publisher: Ballantine