THE JEW STORE by Stella Suberman


The Story of Family Business in God's Country
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In this first book by a retired book reviewer for the Miami Herald, Suberman recounts the story of her family’s sojourn as the only Jews in a rural Tennessee town in the 1920s. When Aaron and Reba Bronson arrived in Concordia, Tenn., (Suberman changed the town’s name for the book) in 1920 to establish a dry-goods store, the hamlet had a population of 5,318 and the expectations of more to come when a new shoe factory was slated to open shortly after. Of those 5,318, almost all were God-fearing Christians of one denomination or another. The vast majority had never seen a Jew but “knew” that the Jews had horns and had killed Jesus. Yet the response of the town to the presence of the Bronsons turns out to be, for the vast majority, a bemused tolerance growing in many cases into outright love. When the Depression threatens the town, it is Aaron who proves to be the best “Christian” of them all, simply by being the most resourceful and caring of men. The Jew Store is as much a book about Jewish fear of Christian hostility as a story of overcoming anti-Semitism; Suberman is admirably frank about her mother’s fears of the townspeople, which are no less destructive than the few manifestations of genuine hostility. The town is populated with the sort of colorful characters that a novelist dreams of creating, from the Northern-educated wealthy spinster agnostic who befriends the Bronsons to her overbearing, overweight, Klan-loving cousin, who is the local real estate magnate. The book is by turns charming, funny, and moving, artfully but simply written and invested with a warm glow of family love. An admirable debut by Suberman, vividly told and captivating in its humanity. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 11th, 1998
ISBN: 1-56512-198-8
Page count: 312pp
Publisher: Algonquin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1998


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