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BELOVED COMRADES

A NOVEL IN STORIES

A sometimes-charming, sometimes-tedious Winesburg, Ohio–style look at the life of a synagogue.

Three generations of Jews clash in their search for fulfillment in this novel in stories from Taub, author of Prodigal Children in the House of G-d (2018).

When Arnold Kestenberg, the entrepreneurial founder of Kestenberg’s Car Service, can’t find a seat at his yeshiva student–dominated synagogue, he decides to start his own. After all, how hard can it be? And so Congregation Haverim Ahuvim is born, the Orthodox synagogue with a twist: It has no rabbi. As Arnold explains to his co-founders: “We will lead each other.…We will care for each other. This will be a synagogue of comrades, in the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood.” The congregation is a success—sort of—creating a multigenerational community of people whose lives and families intersect over the decades. Their individual struggles represent the constant tension between tradition and modernity at play in Haverim Ahuvim—and in Judaism itself. There is Yehudah Ariel, the principal of the Torah and Midot Academy, the closest thing to a spiritual authority the synagogue possesses and a man still figuring life out. There is the boy—and later man—Yehoshua Weissman, who is forced to keep his sexual orientation secret from the congregation, though many people already know it. There is Yehuda’s daughter Braynah, an artist who decides to hold a retrospective of her work in the synagogue—and whose art becomes a method of preserving the past. Taub’s measured prose adeptly captures the personalities and worldviews of his characters: “Mame never used any of the cleansers and creams from the department or specialty stores for her face, either. There too, it was just plain soap. Not dish soap, of course, but hand and body soap. Mame’s face had been a testament to the wisdom of her practice.” The book is slower and less zany than it initially appears to be, and the lack of serious drama in the lives of several characters who temporarily receive the spotlight can make for dull moments. The author succeeds in immersing the reader in this very particular, very Jewish world, however, which seems to have been his goal. Those who are interested in the daily rhythms of such a community will not be disappointed.

A sometimes-charming, sometimes-tedious Winesburg, Ohio–style look at the life of a synagogue.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68114-524-2

Page Count: 284

Publisher: Anaphora Literary Press

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2020

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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THIS SUMMER WILL BE DIFFERENT

A steamy, romantic summer read with a charming setting.

A florist attempts to avoid her best friend’s brother—and their powerful chemistry—on Prince Edward Island.

When Lucy Ashby visits her best friend Bridget’s family home on Prince Edward Island for the first time, Bridget gives her three rules: Eat your weight in oysters….Leave the city behind. And, most importantly, Don’t fall in love with my brother. Unfortunately for Lucy, she sleeps with Felix basically the second her plane lands, unaware that he’s Bridget’s brother until it’s too late. Lucy has never felt understood or accepted by her immediate family, and Bridget is one of the very few people she allows into her inner circle, so Lucy’s desperate to abide by these rules. And so she and Felix try to avoid each other on every one of Lucy’s visits to PEI over the years. And, of course, they fail spectacularly, always returning to each other when they’re in between relationships. But it’s never been anything serious…Lucy makes sure of that, backing off whenever her emotions feel too strong. In her “real life” back in Toronto, it’s easier for Lucy to avoid thinking of Felix as she runs a busy floral shop, working herself into the ground. But when Bridget asks Lucy to come to PEI for an emergency girls’ trip less than two weeks before Bridget is supposed to get married, Lucy drops everything to be there for her best friend. She doesn’t expect to find Felix there, along with feelings that are stronger and more difficult than ever to ignore. Even more than jeopardizing her relationship with Bridget, Lucy is afraid that giving in to her feelings could ruin the life she’s worked so hard to build. Fortune, the author of hits like Every Summer After (2022), gives readers another refreshingly summery story full of angst, romance, and sex scenes aplenty. The PEI setting is a beautiful backdrop for Lucy and Felix’s secret hookups and Lucy’s journey of self-discovery as she learns how to stand on her own two feet as a business owner, friend, and daughter. In addition to frequent (and welcome) Anne of Green Gables references, there are oysters galore and many sandy, windy scenes that transport readers straight to the island.

A steamy, romantic summer read with a charming setting.

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9780593638880

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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