UNION SQUARE by Meredith Tax


Email this review


A sequel to the author's Rivington Street (1982), in which the Levy family established themselves on the Lower East Side after emigrating in 1903 from pogrom-wracked Russia. Now, in the decades between 1919 and 1939, the expanding family will advance in troubles and triumphs, some marching Downtown for justice, others making it Uptown. None will be untouched by the Jewish struggle for survival in Europe and Palestine. The cabbage-soup branch of the Levys is Sarah, union organizer and activist, married to Bolshevik Avi, one of those ""cerebral revolutionists"" to whom every point on the Party line was ""an article of faith."" The marriage often founders, as does that of Sarah's sister Ruby, married to wealthy Ben Berliner, a good, mild man, not interested in the family dress-business (Ruby will compete with her own dress line, but undercover). Ben will discover strength within as he turns toward Jerusalem, commitment and love. Meanwhile, the Levy sisters' friend Rachel, now widowed, carries a torch for philanderer Roman while sleeping around herself, and her sister-in-law, lesbian Tish, finds and loses a lover in dangerous Europe. There are also, of course, children, with problems in the bud, ripe for a sequel. Tax devotes a good deal of energetic research to the factional splits within the garment trade unions and to the dilemmas of Communist party members who deal with directives and revelations from far-off Moscow. The author has also reconstructed some of the variable political currents involved in the creation of the state of Israel. It's Belva Plain, with political palaver taking the place of velvet drapes and tea cups--perhaps too much union-hall brass tacks for those preferring cozy domestica. Still, this continuing saga has both grit and gutsy research into a steamy period of political activism.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1988
Publisher: Morrow