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THE BRIDGE LADIES: A memoir ~Betsy Lerner

Monday, May 9th, 2016

“This is the best book about mothers and daughters I’ve read in decades, maybe ever.  I just loved it, related to it viscerally, kept calling up my daughters to read passages aloud to them.  It’s about – in addition to Bridge, of course – mother-daughter conflict, the desire to love and be loved, aging and loss, discovery and renewal.  Betsy Lerner is a beautiful, achingly honest writer, and THE BRIDGE LADIES is at once heartbreaking and hilarious, uplifting and profound.”  (From the cover, Amy Chua, Yale Law professor and author of BATTLE HYMN OF THE TIGER MOTHER)

I just fell into BRIDGE LADIES hoping it would be as wonderful as AND LADIES OF THE CLUB an historic fiction novel, I also adored and have read 3 times.  BRIDGE LADIES is much more contemporary and it truly is a memoir worth reading for most mothers and daughters.  Thank you to TLC Book Tours for sending on the advanced readers copy for review.

For 50 plus years, a group of mothers have come together every Monday to enjoy lunch and play Bridge for the afternoon.  The author had a fairly “rocky” relationship with her mother over the years and now in her forties wanted to change up that parental/child programing and find a new wave of connection.  Lerner is very open about her life with her friends but the Bridge Ladies are not as open and there is some speculation among the children about the ties that bind these 5 women and hold them together.  They do all belong to the same temple in New Haven, Connecticut.   Lerner begins attending the Monday lunch/game and interviews the woman each in turn.  She interviews the children and for some of the group – husbands.

Included in the story are Lerner’s Bridge lessons that she begins taking and her detailed descriptions of other players and the culture of Bridge.  She shares with us her need for further counseling sessions to assist in the transformation of her relationship with her mother.

I could certainly relate to this read, as my own Mother for over 50 years belonged to a group called P.E.O., which owns a college and supports this project and women’s education all over the United States.  There is a bond and a lot of getting out the best dishes in this group also.  There is a bond of caring through their focus.  I am sure my Mother would have loved reading THE BRIDGE LADIES.

About Betsy Lerner
Betsy Lerner is the author of The Forest for the Trees and Food and Loathing. She is a recipient of the Thomas Wolfe Poetry Prize, an Academy of American Poets Poetry Prize, and the Tony Godwin Prize for Editors, and was selected as one of PEN’s Emerging Writers. Lerner is a partner with the literary agency Dunow, Carlson & Lerner and resides in New Haven, Connecticut.
Find out more about Betsy at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. (From TLC website)

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HIDDEN INHERITANCE: Family Secrets, Memory, and Faith ~Heidi B. Neumark

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016

I was drawn into this story on the very first page of reading.  I agreed with Lillian Daniel, who wrote on the cover of the book, “This is a family tree worth climbing.”

Part Memoir and part detective novel this book is full of beautiful words and exegesis work, which is then perfectly meshed into current social justice issues which confront our daily lives.   There is an element where the book is also a great sermon playing out in one life and the extended family system; the examples are all personal stories of discovery and secrets explored.  How and why Neumark was called to become a pastor and work on human and justice issues within the confines of her family structures and shared experiences, was it just her environment or her genetics that allowed her to hear the call?

Neumark is called late at night by her daughter who is working on a graduate school project and discovers that her family is Jewish and is referenced on Wikipedia.  Neumark’s life had been centered on being a German Lutheran and not a Jew.  She knew her father was emigrated from Germany and now discovers that her Grandfather died in a Concentration Camp and that her Grandmother did not.  There were some of her family members still Jewish and still alive and that her Father had kept his secret even from her Mother and held on in silence to the whole story.

The book is Pastor Neumark’s journey to discover the truth and integrate the why and how her father became Lutheran and how that saved his life and his sisters lives also.  The beauty of scripture and poetry and theological concepts are penned into the story as she goes to the various sites of her family’s life in Germany and the layers of family are revealed and exposed – the silent conspiracy is broken and spoken into the pages with depth and caring.

“Hidden Inheritance will appeal to a wide gamut of readers; Christians with an interest in social justice, Jews and others interested in stories of the Shoah and its ongoing impact, those interested in issues of Jewish/Christian identity and dual identities, the impact of trauma and secrecy, readers of memoirs, and anyone interested in pursuing family genealogy. “ (From Media release)

The Meryl Zegarek PR firm sent me a copy of this book for review and I give it high marks for intelligent writing and interesting story and history.  History is well integrated into social justice and human needs and is explored on a personal level and as a well -researched understanding.

www.MZPR.com
Twitter @MZPR
Facebook.com/MerylZegarek

I have mentioned this book to nearly everyone I have encountered and now I share it with you.  It was a pleasure to read and contemplate.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: (From book cover)

“Heidi B. Neumark is a speaker and Lutheran pastor in New York City.  She is the author of the highly acclaimed book BREATHING SPACE: A Spiritual Journey in the South Bronx, has published numerous chapters and sermons in other books, and is a regular contributor to THE CHRISTIAN CENTURY and other journals.”

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A REMARKABLE KINDNESS: A Story About Friendship ~Diana Bletter

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

TLC Book Tours  asked me to read and review this book and after reading the promotion material I was looking forward to this very good book about women and friendship.  The book arrived by UPS with a squeak and a promise before the scheduled review.  I set everything aside and read the book cover to cover in one day, with as much speed as I could muster.  I think it would have been a much better read at a slower pace, but I enjoyed the book even with the great push.

About A Remarkable Kindness
• Paperback: 416 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 11, 2015)

Through a largely hidden ceremony . . . four friends discover the true meaning of life.
It’s 2006 in a seaside village in Israel, where a war is brewing. Lauren, Emily, Aviva and Rachel, four memorable women from different backgrounds, are drawn to the village. Lauren, a maternity nurse, loves her Israeli doctor husband but struggles to make a home for herself in a foreign land thousands of miles away from her beloved Boston. Seeking a fresh start after a divorce, her vivacious friend Emily follows. Strong, sensuous Aviva, brought to Israel years earlier by intelligence work, has raised a family and now lost a son. And Rachel, a beautiful, idealistic college graduate from Wyoming, arrives with her hopeful dreams.

The women forge a friendship that sustains them as they come to terms with love and loss, and the outbreak of war. Their intimate bond is strengthened by their participation in a traditional ritual that closes the circle of life. As their lives are slowly transformed, each finds unexpected strength and resilience.

Brimming with wisdom, rich in meaningful insights, A Remarkable Kindness is a moving testament to women’s friendship, illuminating a mostly unknown ritual that underscores what it means to truly be alive.” (From the TLC website)

What I enjoyed when reading this story was the constant loss and the women’s reaction to each loss.  Loss of a favorite city and an expectation, loss of a partner, loss because of war, loss because of change or choices, and loss because of old age and life’s patterns.  I enjoyed reading about loss because we ignore it in our culture and it is a big part of living, that often defines our lives – first we acquire and then we let go.  The four women friends were connected because they all moved from the USA to Israel and they were all active in their Jewish Faith, although that was verbally downplayed in the story, they were all programed to rely on their faith and the rules of their lives and living.  The story very much paralleled the author’s own life and story.

The descriptions of another country and the Jewish traditions were very nice and opened my perspective on the friendship shared by these women and their families.  It was not just foxhole faith, but rather served them well as they interacted and took care of their children, husbands, and homes.

The writing was often simplistic and although the author was writing about what she knew from her own story, it left me wanting for some more meaning and character interpretations of the war and the politics; not just a study of loss.   I think 4 American women would have had a lot more to say about the politics on the ground and not been so dependent on husbands and fathers in their new country.  There was not a lot of depth to the characters and just one perspective.  Lots of sobbing and crying and very little wisdom or deeper thinking was involved.   I read the book in very short order, and I do not think I am inclined to re-read it; I very often want to read more about women’s friendships but once was enough for A REMARKABLE KINDNESS.

About Diana Bletter  (From TLC website)

“Diana Bletter is a writer whose work has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Commentary. Her first book, The Invisible Thread: A Portrait of Jewish American Women, with photographs by Lori Grinker, was shortlisted for a National Jewish Book Award. In 1991, she moved from New York to a seaside village in northern Israel where she lives with her husband and children, and volunteers in a burial circle.”

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