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HOLDING MY BREATH by Sidura Ludwig

HOLDING MY BREATH

By Sidura Ludwig

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-307-39622-8
Publisher: Shaye Areheart/Harmony

Ludwig’s debut novel, first published in Canada in 2007, concerns a young Jewish Canadian woman who breaks through the web of her family's conformity to follow her dream.

When Beth Levy is born, her family's constellation of relationships and roles is as firmly set as the stars in the heavens. Her stoic grandparents, Russian immigrants in Winnipeg, anchor the family in practicality and old-world values. Beth's mother, Goldie, struggles to rise in middle-class Jewish society, but in her struggle to be a dutiful daughter and wife, she is guided more by convention than progress. Goldie's sisters' lives follow different trajectories: Carrie has a constrained life, hiding a secret tragedy, while Sarah, the baby of the family, chafes against the narrow confines of Jewish society in Winnipeg and abandons her husband and young daughter. Hovering over the sisters is Beth's uncle, Phil, who died in World War II. They sense Phil's continuing presence, drawing comfort, support, even guilt from the feeling that he is nearby. When Beth discovers Phil's journal, which her mother had hidden away, she is entranced by his descriptions of the stars and celestial bodies and his dream of space exploration. She embarks on her own astronomical pursuits, lying in the backyard staring at the night sky just as Phil did. Her mother refuses to acknowledge Beth's interest in astronomy, instead pressuring her to excel at Hebrew school, attend Hadassah meetings and plan an advantageous marriage. Struggling to satisfy her mother while following her own dream, Beth feels “like my life was becoming a series of one-act plays where I played myself but as different characters.” As she becomes an adult, she finds an unlikely ally who helps her make her dream a reality.

A loving yet unsentimental look at Jewish assimilation in Canada. Ludwig deftly describes the push-pull that burdens the children of immigrant parents, a dance between tradition and progress.