Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Watchmaker's Daughter and its universal appeal

Beer Garden at Burkes of Ireland
Crystal River, Florida
After a hot sunny day, the rain began to fall... just as we started our Books & Beer Club meeting last night. Not a light rain storm. A torrential downpour. It was raining so freaking hard, it was impossible to hear what anyone was saying. It was almost impossible to hear yourself think!

Ten or eleven of us were at the meeting last night to discuss The Watchmaker's Daughter by Sonia Taitz. Only one person hadn't finished the book and only one person gave it a sideways thumb. What didn't she like about the book was "the main character." She thought Sonia Taitz was kind of whiny. None of us really found that. But when I came back and re-read my posts Before/During Reading and Review (clickable links so you can re-read if you'd like), I was reminded that as Sonia reached college age, I wasn't so thrilled with her and her likeability took a nosedive. As she matured, I liked her once again. Almost as if she was my own teenage daughter!

Why did people like the book? They felt that they were able to learn about another culture. The respected the devotion the author and her parents showed towards each other. Sonia Taitz had a wonderful way with language, too. She was viewed to be honest and critical when telling her own story.

In retrospect, I was so foolish to feel that just because I was able to make so many text-to-self and text-to-world connections that I was the only one who was going to enjoy this book. I was so focused on what I and my family shared with the author that I didn't open my eyes wide enough to realize that so many universal themes were included. An open-minded reader can read a book about any culture and find things that personally resonate.

Suffering is universal. And while the suffering of the Irish was of a different scale than the suffering of those persecuted during the Holocaust, at the end of the day, the suffering of parents has a major impact on the lives of the children. In any culture, children raised by long-suffering parents believe that it's within their power to make up for the suffering. That really is never the case. Like Sonia, the child might be able to excel and make the parent proud. But does that really make up for earlier suffering? I don't think so. We talked about many different forms of discrimination and how that impacts parent/child relationships.

Children raised in households where there are secrets - an alcoholic parent, spousal abuse, etc. - were able to relate to Sonia's efforts to keep others away from learning the reality of her home life.

The final issue that Taitz tackles is that of the mother/daughter relationship. You don't have to be an immigrant or have suffered the Holocaust to be able to relate to mother/daughter issues.

Excellent book. Excellent discussion.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Hum If You Don't Know the Words - a book to look for

Hum If You Don't Know the Words, a debut novel by Bianca Marais is the second goodreads giveaway I won recently. Here's the description that motivated me to enter.

Perfect for readers of The Secret Life of Bees and The Help, a perceptive and searing look at Apartheid-era South Africa, told through one unique family brought together by tragedy.
Life under Apartheid has created a secure future for Robin Conrad, a nine-year-old white girl living with her parents in 1970s Johannesburg. In the same nation but worlds apart, Beauty Mbali, a Xhosa woman in a rural village in the Bantu homeland of the Transkei, struggles to raise her children alone after her husband's death. Both lives have been built upon the division of race, and their meeting should never have occurred . . . until the Soweto Uprising, in which a protest by black students ignites racial conflict, alters the fault lines on which their society is built, and shatters their worlds when Robin s parents are left dead and Beauty s daughter goes missing. 

After Robin is sent to live with her loving but irresponsible aunt, Beauty is hired to care for Robin while continuing the search for her daughter. In Beauty, Robin finds the security and family that she craves, and the two forge an inextricable bond through their deep personal losses. But Robin knows that if Beauty finds her daughter, Robin could lose her new caretaker forever, so she makes a desperate decision with devastating consequences. Her quest to make amends and find redemption is a journey of self-discovery in which she learns the harsh truths of the society that once promised her protection. 

Told through Beauty and Robin's alternating perspectives, the interwoven narratives create a rich and complex tapestry of the emotions and tensions at the heart of Apartheid-era South Africa. Hum if You Don t Know the Words is a beautifully rendered look at loss, racism, and the creation of family.

Here is my review from goodreads.

"When was the last time I picked up a 400+ page book on a Saturday afternoon and didn't go to bed until I'd finished reading? The publication date for Hum If You Don't Know the Words isn't until the middle of next month but I believe at some point in the not too distant future this book is going to appear on so many "best book club titles" lists. It's a multi-layered book with much to talk about. But unlike some other books I've read recently that begged to be talked about, this book can be read alone. Without added benefit of a book club discussion. Just be prepared to do a lot of thinking about what you're reading while you're reading it - and after you've finished the book. I'm going to be thinking about what I read for a long time to come.

I was able to read Hum If You Don't Know the Words by Bianca Marais prior to publication thanks to an ARC from Penguin Random House and G.P. Putnam's Sons. What a wonderful book. So thrilled that I will be able to say I read it before it becomes one of this year's most talked about books.

I thought I knew a lot about apartheid and I thought I was able to adequately imagine what life must have been like in South Africa in the late 1970s. I was a college student, witnessed protests on the streets of Philadelphia against apartheid. Had been an overseas student at Tel Aviv University side-by-side with many students from South Africa. I knew all those students had household servants. That's what I thought was different between "us" and "them." I never imagined that those household servants weren't allowed to use the bathrooms - or even the dishes and silverware - of the family that they worked for. On an intellectual level, I knew how horrible apartheid was. I knew it was on par with the United States South in the days of Jim Crow. But I simply didn't know on a real level what this translated to in everyday life. This book gave me a window into that world. Into South Africa of the 1970s, at a time when real change was on the verge of taking place.

Why is is that I never thought to ask those South African students in Tel Aviv about their Jewish lives back home, since I presume many of those students were Jewish? One of Robin's closest friends is a Jewish boy who is forced to be home-schooled because of anti-Semitic bullying at the school he had attended. Were my former fellow students bullied like that? And how is it that I didn't realize that these same fellow students didn't grow up watching television the way we did in the United States? Once a week, a group of us would go down to the lounge in our "F" dorm and watch The Muppet Show. Television had only come to South Africa a few years prior. Was being able to watch something like The Muppets a big, huge deal to those who had only started watching television? How did I not know?

When I think about the Civil Rights era in the United States, I think of something that happened before I was born (even if that's not quite true). But this story took place at a time when I (thought I) was aware of what was going on in the world around me. We boycotted companies that did business in South Africa. We protested. We signed petitions. My contemporaries marched. This was a horrible period of history in my lifetime. I likened the stories about the activists in this novel with stories I'm familiar with about our Underground Railroad.
Hum If You Don't Know the Words is a complex, rich novel. It's a story of apartheid. It's also a coming of age story. It's a story of creating family from the people you choose rather than those you are born to. It's a story about motherhood. And finally it's a story about love. It's a story of hope in a world where violence and hatred have taken a firm hold.

I try not to read reviews of books prior to picking up a book so it wasn't until after I'd finished reading that I explored some of the reviews on goodreads. Overwhelmingly, readers loved the book. A few people complained about the telling of Robin's story. She's telling the story of the year she turned 10 from the perspective of an older person. Her narration alternates between sounding like it's being told by a child and being told by adult Robin. I had no problem with that. Or the ending of the book? That it was just too neat and pretty (Did you really think for a moment that I am going to tell you how it ends?) The book wasn't perfect, but none of those issues detracted one moment from my full immersion and enjoyment of the book.

Bianca Marais' language is delightful. Her storytelling is seamless. I look forward to reading more of what she chooses to write. I will recommend this book to anyone, the highest compliment I can give to an author."

Golf Chronicles

I entered a bunch of giveaways on a few weeks ago. Based on this description, I entered to win Golf Chronicles by Joseph Bronson. I won!

From Pebble Beach to St. Andrews:
An Amateur Golfer's Experiences

Join the fun in this celebration of all things golf - a series of life stories, vignettes, and essays from the perspective of an ordinary player who simply loves the game.

Joe Bronson has played golf for the past 40 years at courses all over the world - from 84 of the top 100 US venues to England, Scotland, Ireland, Italy, France, Portugal, Spain, China, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, and even Israel. His book includes an account of the hardest holes and the most enjoyable holes he has played, as well as insights into the current state of the game.

From his first round of golf at age 25 to reaching a handicap of four, this dedicated player's passion for the game shines through in his entertaining yet information collection of golf chronicles.

Here is the review (constructive critique) that I posted on goodreads. I hope Joe Bronson reads it the way I intended. 

"I received my autographed copy of Golf Chronicles as a winner of a goodreads giveaway. Thank you, Joe Bronson.

I really wanted to love this book. And Joe, if you're reading this, please read it as constructive criticism. That's what it's meant to be. It will be helpful if you'd like to appeal to an audience of casual golfers who have come to the game far later in life than you did as well as those who golf at your level.

I'm a (not very good) golfer and was anxious to read stories by someone who has played golf around the world, at some of the more famous and challenging golf courses. That's not what this book was. This book contained far too much general information about specific holes at specific golf courses and even though I golf, sometimes the language was too technical (or perhaps too much jargon) for me.

From the description given of the book, I really hoped for a book full of anecdotes by the author about his personal golf experiences. I really enjoyed reading about when your foursome broke two windows by two different golfers, two holes in a row, at Blackhawk. Your first experience at the Old Course at St. Andrews was exactly the type of thing I wanted to read about. I also enjoyed your story about golfing with Arnold Palmer. I wish that had gone on a little longer.

I wish that your stories had been written chronologically, in a more personal way. I wanted to read about how Joe Bronson improved at golf over the 40+ years of playing. What was it like when you went back top play your second round at the Old Course at St. Andrews? How was it different? And I don't mean the layouts of the holes? I mean your actual experience.

I wished you'd explained why you had golf clubs all over the place. Are they at clubs? Do you have homes all over the place? Where is your favorite set?

I also wished you'd included where each of the golf courses you wrote about were located.

A picky, minor detail here. You repeated some of the information at least once, if not more often, making me feel that you'd written each little blurb separately and then just plunked them all together rather than combining what you'd written into a more cohesive piece.

Finally, I also wished you'd shown a bit more humility in what you included in this book. I grew up as an inner city kid, too. Golf wasn't in my realm at all (although somehow one of the kids I grew up with is now a scratch golfer - whatever that means). Had I been a golfer as a young adult, I would have had the opportunity to play at The Boulders in Arizona, at Pinehurst in North Carolina, at The Greenbrier in West Viriginia. At Kiaweh. In Laguna Niguel. (I don't even know if these are great golf courses at all. They seemed impressive when I was there.) Even as a non-golfer back then, I was excited to be at these courses. I was thrilled to attend dinners at Baltusrol in New Jersey. To be able to go into the pro shop and buy my boyfriend a golf ball. I knew what a big deal that was. Even as a person who had only ever played mini golf. I felt none of that excitement or awe in your writing. That was probably one of my biggest disappointments.

If you ever do write the book that I wish this had been, I'd love to read that one!" 

I will let you know if I get any sort of response from the author.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

A sad day where I come clean

Three years ago, I was still in Brooklyn acting as caregiver to my father during what turned out to be the final months of his life. I had a lot of time for reading and the book,Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman was recommended to me. It wasn't available at my home library (and certainly not as an e-book), but it was available at the Brooklyn Public Library. My dad told me to dig into his wallet and find his library card. Using my dad's library card, I tried to request the book online. It wasn't accepting his card.

Dad was living in a rehabilitation facility in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Once he was cleared to go out for "walks," one of our first outings was to the nearby branch of the BPL. We were informed that the library had gone to a new system of library cards. Dad applied for and received a new library card. The first book "we" took out was Unorthodox. I was once again a part of the public library system that contributed to my love of books - and libraries - as a young girl. Sometimes I'd bring Dad along with me when I'd visit the library. Often, I'd request the book I wanted online and would quickly swing by to pick up the book after spending way too much time looking for a legal place to park in Bensonhurst. I could request books from other branches and within a day they'd be ready for pick-up at the New Utrecht branch. What could be better?

After Dad died that August, I remained in Brooklyn for a few more weeks and continued to gobble up books. When it was time to come home, I had two different e-books from the BPL on my (new to me) iPad. And I continued to use the Brooklyn Public Library as a source for library e-books.

Until...  yesterday. I went to download Lilac Girls which I had out on my iPad from the BPL to my phone. Error message. Tried again. Another error message, but this time it was more specific. It let me know that my dad's library card had expired. Oh no! So sad on so many levels. As I used my dad's library card over the past three years, I felt connected to my dad. He was always so proud of me for becoming such an avid reader. (Unless you are a reader who is the parent to a non-reader, that probably makes no sense.) He was so happy to be able to reconnect me to his beloved library. One of my dad's final gifts to me had come to an end. I miss you so much, Dad!

And of course, my "in" with a great source of library e-books is severed. But in the scheme of things, right at this moment, that's feeling kind of minor.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Lilac Girls

Another book that was suggested to my community book club which wasn't selected was Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. Similar to LaRose, it's another book that begs to be discussed but for many in the book club, I think it would be too much of "the same." We probably haven't read a Holocaust book in a long while, and this book, told from three different perspectives, differs from many other books we've read in the past. But this book would not have been a good fit for our book club at this time.

Lilac Girls tells its Holocaust tale from the perspectives of New York City socialite, Caroline, Polish political prisoner, Kasia, and  German doctor, Herta, a loyal Nazi whose dedication to the party quickly overtakes the Hippocratic Oath. Lilac Girls is based on the true story of  women whose lives were somehow connected thru experiences at the only women's concentration camp, Ravensbruck, during World War II.

Kasia's story, as a prisoner, was most grizzly and probably the type of story that readers to Holocaust novels are most familiar with. Kasia had become part of a teen underground in Lublin, Poland, in the early years of the war and when she gets arrested, her sister and mother get caught up and sent to Ravensbruck along with her.

Herta's story was less familiar and because of that much more disturbing. Herta was upset by Hitler's forbidding women from being surgeons. She applies for a job at Ravensbruck, which she understands to be a "reeducation camp for women, 90 km north of Berlin, near the resort town of Furstenberg on Lake Schwedt." On her first day, she is instructed to lethally inject an elderly prisoner. Her initial reaction was to flee. But her desire to be a surgeon quickly wins over, she stays and transforms into a monstrous part of the Nazi party machine.

I'd read about "medical experimentation" on Jewish concentration camp victims. This novel went into much more detail regarding what was involved with the particular non-Jewish group of women prisoners at Ravensbruck. The experimentation subjects became known as the Ravensbruck Rabbits. The novel says that's due to the women "hopping around the camp" after surgery and because they were the camp guinea pigs. In my mind, it was solely the latter.

The Ravensbruck Rabbits was an actual group of women. Herta Oberheuser was an actual doctor. And Caroline Ferriday was an actual socialite who wanted to make sure that the story of the Ravensbruck Rabbits was told.

Herta's story begs one to wonder just how quickly and easily the transformation from one who wants to save lives to one who is okay with ending innocent lives can happen. No matter how many books I read, I will never understand.

Caroline's story had a component of a "forbidden love" story, full of the soap opera miscommunications and missed opportunities. And as I was reading, I wondered how her story was going to intersect the stories of Kasia and Herta. Caroline's story also brought me back to wondering about what my young mother knew about what was going on in Europe during the 1940s.

I can't say I enjoyed reading this book. Impossible to enjoy. And thinking about what I was reading contributed to one night of very poor sleep. However, it certainly told a different story from two points of view that I was less familiar with. It is because of the different point of view that I am able to recommend Lilac Girls with reservations to anyone who is a frequent reader of Holocaust historical fiction.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

LaRose by Louise Erdrich

Some books are just ripe for book club discussions. LaRose, Louise Erdrich's recent novel, is one of those books. Unfortunately, my book club did not choose to read LaRose this year. This book really needs to be discussed.

LaRose is a novel about revenge, escape and resolution. There are so many stories going on, so many different conversations that could be had. One book club meeting would most probably not suffice. The "big idea" of the story, in other words, the main plot focuses on the accidental killing of 5-year old Dusty by Landreaux. Based on an old Indian custom, Landreaux and his wife, Emmaline, give Dusty's parents (Emmaline's half-sister, although that relationship really wasn't ever properly explained in the novel) LaRose to raise as almost a replacement child to Dusty.

There were so many subplots, probably the most striking about the history of each generation's LaRose, going back to the original LaRose. An Indian who was "sold" by her mother, abandoned, sent to a school where she was supposed to become "civilized" and returned to marry the man she set off with as a young girl. Each LaRose had healing powers, an ability to transcend the real world to reach those who came before. This current young LaRose (the first boy LaRose) was no different.

Landreaux and his family lived on the Ojibwe reservation while Dusty and his parents, Peter and Nola, with their daughter Maggie lived off the reservation in the adjacent town. The interactions between the two communities was weaved throughout the story.

Also weaved throughout the story were historical references to the place that Indians had in our American history. Frank Baum, famous for writing The Wizard of Oz, was known to say “our only safety depends upon the total extermination of the Indians.” That was extreme, but over the years there were attempts to civilize the savages, sending young Indian children to boarding schools where they could learn the American ways and lose their Indian ways. I was fascinated by many of these descriptions and "civilizing the savages" was part of the fifth grade Social Injustice curriculum I covered as a teacher.

It was at just such a school where young Landreaux meets Romeo. Romeo grows into a damaged adult, fully bent on extracting revenge on Landreaux. It was because of Landreaux's carelessness that Romeo becomes physical damaged. And then to add insult to injury, Landreaux steals Emmaline, the woman of Romeo's dreams.

Other themes in the book include but are not limited to drug addiction, senior living, parenting, rebellious teens, suicide, religion and the current events of the 1990s. Do you see how there is so much to talk about after reading LaRose?

I loved the subject matter. I loved the interweaving of the stories. But often the book became too dark for me. I read before I go to sleep each night and sometimes after just reading a few pages, I'd need to set the book aside and get some sleep. At times, I find Erdrich's style of writing a bit heavy and cumbersome as well. In my mind, I thought I'd finished her book, The Round House, but at one point where I literally had to force myself to continue reading LaRose I recalled that The Round House was added to my dropped-books shelf on goodreads and I never actually completed it. In fact, the only Erdrich book that I completed was The Birchbark House, a middle grade chapter book about a young  Objibwe girl set in the 1800s, a book that had been recommended to me by some of my fifth grade colleagues.

At the end of the ebook edition of LaRose was an interview with Louise Erdrich as well as information about her life and her writing life. I wish I'd read that at the time I'd read The Birchbark House and before I'd read LaRose. I'd have a better understanding of how much of each story came directly from the life of Erdrich or from the stories that had been passed down in her family.

I'd wholeheartedly recommend this as a book club book and I'd like to salute whoever suggested LaRose for our book club. It took me far longer to finish this book than other books of the same length. I'm glad I stuck with it. Now I'd love to find someone to discuss it with!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Review of Sonia Taitz's The Watchmaker's Daughter

When I posted some thoughts yesterday while reading The Watchmaker's Daughter by Sonia Taitz, I didn't think I'd be writing my review of the memoir the following day. The book wasn't a page turner in the traditional sense, but because I had connection after connection to Taitz's descriptions of her life experiences, it was a very quick read for me.

I gave the book 4-stars on Goodreads. I really enjoyed the book but I'd recommend it conditionally. If only I could think of the conditions! As I went to mark The Watchmaker's Daughter as finished and make note of my stars on Goodreads, one of the reviews caught my attention. Someone likened this memoir to another quite different memoir, Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt. Perhaps The Watchmaker's Daughter does have a wider appeal than I can imagine. I hesitate to read online reviews prior to writing my own review post here, but I do plan on going back to read through more of the reviews as soon as I've published this blog entry.

Here are excerpts of one of my favorite chapters in the book. The chapter is titled The Jewess at Last. Sonia is visiting the parents of her Christian Oxford boyfriend. She includes this conversation as she's reflecting on how it feels to be slighted as a Jew, a mere fraction of the slights (can you even describe being in a concentration camp as being a slight?) which were her parents' realities while living in Europe. She feels she now has something in common with her parents and that she can confront the nightmares their stories have instilled in her. Anyway, I digress.

Paul's father, Rikki (an old Boy Scout/Kipling nickname he favors), goads me now
 and then. He loves how angry and pointed I get about these little slights, how I get 
wound up like a desperate, talking doll. He is proud of being a white 
Anglo Saxon Protestant, better than anyone no matter what I say about his cultural myopia. 
Eventually, I come up with a parallel that nags at him. It's kind of an SAT analogy.

"England is to America as Judaism is to Christianity."

"So, you'd equate England and - and Judaism?"

"Yes," I say. "England is the root of the English speaking empire which, you would agree,
has popularized and cheapened its original quality. Look at American culture," I bait him.

"That's true. It's god-awful."

"So that's how you could see Judaism vis-a-vis  Christianity. One is small and old-fashioned
and riddled with rules and customs, and the other far more popular, with a simpler message
and more universal appeal." 

"Well," he says, "doesn't 'universal appeal' tell you something? There must be something to it if 
everyone  believes in it. That's why, despite the occasional whisper of doubt, I'm a Christian. -
sheer numbers can't be wrong."

"Well, according to your logic, McDonald's is better than a three-star Michelin restaurant. More
people eat at McDonald's."

"Oh, be quiet," he says grumpily... 

I don't want to bore you with all the connections I was able to make. They filled nearly 6 pages in a composition notebook. 

Some of the connections were completely personal. 
  • Goofus and Gallant, those familiar characters from Highlights magazine
  • A Rabbi Lichtiger (the same name as a rabbi from the yeshiva near my house growing up) reminding young Sonia that "God loves questions."
  • Dressing up like Queen Esther, like nearly every other girl
  • Judaism being so normal (and by my experience, much easier) in Israel
Some connected me to my Holocaust surviving former in-laws. And still others connected me to the immigrant existence that my husband and his parents lived after they left their homeland of Sicily to settle in the United States. Ironic how their experiences were so vastly different, but that I can list some of the stronger connections I picked up on together. Taken directly from the book:
  • What did the phrase just a kid mean to someone like my father?
    He had never been just a kid.
  • Immigrant parents who worry and sigh...
I'm sure many readers will recognize the coming to terms with who their parents were once they become adults and even more so once they become parents themselves.

Now I will wait patiently for my Books and Beer Club meeting, more than 3 weeks away. I just hope that my notes jog my memory enough so that I can bring up the points about the memoir that seem so important to me now.

Again, stay tuned...

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Watchmaker's Daughter - Before and During Reading

For lots of reasons, this is the type of book that I need to dissect before, during and after reading. And then I'll need to readdress the whole thing after Books & Beer Club discusses the book at our next meeting. Therefore, I'm breaking this up into 4 parts in 3 different posts.Way Before, As I'm Reading, My Review, and After the Meeting.
I don't remember who came up with the suggestion to read this book, The Watchmaker's Daughter by Sonia Taitz. June is apparently the month we're reading non-fiction and somsone had heard that this was an excellent memoir. I was confused for a minute. Isn't Corrie Ten Boom, the righteous gentile who saved many Jews during the Holocaust, the "watchmaker's daughter"? How can someone else write her memoir? Not to mention she had written her own memoir. I was confused. But since I thought that was a wonderful story, I was game to read another version of it.

Once I found the description of the book online, I realized that it had nothing to do with Corrie Ten Boom. It was truly a daughter of a totally different watchmaker. Okay...

I downloaded and started reading the e-book the other night. It's the memoir of a woman, Sonia Taitz, not much older than I am, child of Holocaust survivors, born in the United States. In fact, born in New York City. My former husband was also a child of Holocaust survivors, born in New York City, probably only a year before the author. I wondered how similar her story would be to his.

Sonia's father's father died when he was a young boy. He had no money to go to school so he apprenticed with a watchmaker. Soon enough, he was a master watchmaker and an expert at repairing timepieces. That's what saved him when the Nazis came. Germans are famous for being on time and keeping to time schedules. The war didn't alter that. They valued their timepieces and only a master watchmaker could keep the clocks and watches running properly. Sonia's father became the watchmaker at Dachau. He had value.

Sonia's mother had been raised by wealthy parents and was destined to be a concert pianist. Then the Nazis came to town. The mother's father and two brothers were murdered. Sonia stuck to her mother and miraculously, the two of them survived.

Sonia's parents met at a dance in a Displaced Persons camp in Germany where they both ended up after the end of the war.

I feel very connected to the book. While I wasn't raised with the Holocaust being an everyday topic of conversation, it did become a major part of the dialogue of my first marriage. I was always told that I didn't understand suffering or loss. And I'm sure I didn't. Relatively speaking. Who can imagine the magnitude of the suffering of someone who lived through the Holocaust? But just as my ex-husband embodied the loss and suffering of his parents, I somehow did too, without ever meeting his parents. It was an important part of my life with him. Shortly after the divorce, will researching the psyche of children of Holocaust survivors, I determined that my first husband took on the traits of being a survivor. As I read about Sonia's parents, I'm reminded of habit and beliefs of my former husband.

Having said that, so far what I've read about Sonia's story, her early life was very similar to mine... just with the undercurrent - no, too mild a word - horrific burden of the Holocaust there all the time.

Sonia's parents were immigrants who spoke with a thick Eastern European accent, who had experienced horrific losses on their road to becoming Sonia's parents. Everything they did was for the betterment of their family. Sonia and her brother were their everything.

My parents were American. My mother's parents were even born in the US. Both my parents were college-educated and New York was their home. Not that they didn't do everything they could for the betterment of our family. They did. But my brother and I did not have to constantly feel the weight of all that.

As I'm reading, I am able to make so many text-to-self connections. I fully understand the Jewish references and can relate to so many of them. I was not brought up in an observant household but had many friends that were. The stories about Washington Heights and Riverdale and the neighborhoods fits in with my early view of the world. I can't help but wonder what the other women in my book club will think about or wonder about or make sense of what they are reading in the book. I feel like I'm reading about "home" and "friends" and shared experiences. What must they think?

My current husband is an immigrant, the son of immigrants. Would Sonia's story resonate more strongly with him than with my American-born book club friends? I wonder.

I joined Books and Beer Club in order to discuss Uncle Tom's Cabin, which I'd read several years earlier but never had anyone to discuss it with. I felt that the discussion we had about that book was way different than a discussion I might have had with a northern book club. Likewise, I'm sure the conversations around The Watchmaker's Daughter will be quite different with this book club than it would be with a New York City book club or a Jewish book club. But how different?

I also fear that this book won't seem relevant to the other members of the club.

I'm about two-thirds of the way thru the book. Sonia is a young adult, finally rebelling against her parents. I'm relating to her less - and liking her less. Did being able to relate to her as a girl make me like her more? And if that's the case, will the other members of the book club like her as well?

I'm reading the book weeks before the book club so (for the first time in ages), I'm taking copious notes of things that I think I want to share with the book club. Will they be interested in what I feel compelled to share? Only time will tell.

Stay tuned for my next two posts about The Watchmaker's Daughter.