Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Book Review: "Modern Girls" by Jennifer S. Brown

Modern Girls Jennifer S. Brown
Published: April 5, 2016
ISBN: 9780451477125
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: First To Read Program
Highly Recommended

You might enjoy this book if you like: Historical Fiction, Feminist Fiction, Jewish Fiction, stories set in New York City neighborhoods, Immigrant Stories, Mother/Daughter Stories

In 1935, Dottie Krasinsky is the epitome of the modern girl. A bookkeeper in Midtown Manhattan, Dottie steals kisses from her steady beau, meets her girlfriends for drinks, and eyes the latest fashions. Yet at heart, she is a dutiful daughter, living with her Yiddish-speaking parents on the Lower East Side. So when, after a single careless night, she finds herself in a family way by a charismatic but unsuitable man, she is desperate: unwed, unsure, and running out of options.

After the birth of five children—and twenty years as a housewife—Dottie’s immigrant mother, Rose, is itching to return to the social activism she embraced as a young woman. With strikes and breadlines at home and National Socialism rising in Europe, there is much more important work to do than cooking and cleaning. So when she realizes that she, too, is pregnant, she struggles to reconcile her longings with her faith. 

As mother and daughter wrestle with unthinkable choices, they are forced to confront their beliefs, the changing world, and the fact that their lives will never again be the same…. 

My Thoughts:
I think I was destined to enjoy this book--it encompasses so many topics that I love to read about that there was no way I could pass it up.  I knew from the first page that this story would not disappoint.  However, I didn't expect to be as moved by it as I was.

When we think of "world building," we frequently do so in terms of Fantasy or Science Fiction novels.  Brown shows us that it has its place in historical fiction as well.  I felt as though I was among the characters in the Jewish neighborhoods of New York.  The prose if chock full of detail, but the reader doesn't consciously see that.  Instead, we just get sucked in.

The characters of this novel are incredibly well-drawn.  Even the minor secondary characters have their own personalities--each of Dottie's friends, her co-workers, and her siblings.  I felt that Brown could write a book on any or all of these characters and that gave this story a true depth.

Both Dottie and Rose are incredible characters.  They are fully human--they have hopes and dreams and, at times, both make bad decision (Dottie tends to do so in an epic fashion).  I rooted for both of them--and then frequently wanted to shake some sense into them.  I really can't remember reading a book where I had such a gut reactions to the lives of characters.

While I can't say I have any complaints about this book, I will say this.  I am not one for sequels...but I want--almost need--a sequel to this one.  This book end with both women on the precipice of a new life and I'm itching to know how it turns out for them!

It's always a good thing when a book lives up to your expectations, but it is something special when a book exceeds them.  Modern Girls was that book for me and I'd recommend it to just about anyone.

I received an electronic copy of this book in return for an honest review.  I received no other compensation for this post.

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