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FALL 2007 CATALOG

The Victory Gardens of Brooklyn
A Novel

 
Merrill Joan Gerber

Paper $24.95    |    978-0-8156-0892-9    |    2007

Reviews
"The Victory Gardens of Brooklyn is a moving and nuanced portrait. . . .A generational saga . . . that resonates with universal feeling."
Hadassah Magazine

"In this book, Merrill Joan Gerber continues to display her remarkable talent."
National Jewish Post & Opinion

"Merrill Joan Gerber opens the door of a tenement household over a hundred years ago and invites us into the sounds, smells, lives, and drama of a Jewish immigrant family struggling to survive on New York’s Lower East Side. In this family, Ava is abruptly separated from her beloved, handsome, philandering father; then from Rachel, her Mama, and her brother as Mama works as a midwife to pay for a divorce.

Ava finds herself an unwelcome guest in Mama’s sister’s home until Mama marries a cold, tyrannical tailor so that her family can be together once again. Ava finds refuge in school and tries to be invisible as she is excluded again and again when her half-sisters are born. She finds meaningful work, then marries the brother of her friend Tessie. Here the saga begins to include her younger stepsisters, Musetta and Gilda. Although Gerber’s three generations of women dominate this rich stew of mothers and daughters, aunts and uncles, a couple of sons and a couple of husbands during the two World Wars have a deep psychological influence upon how the women respond to life’s joys and difficulties.

The Victory Gardens allows us to witness the passions, both positive and negative, and personal growth of four Jewish women. Gerber is skilled at inviting the reader into the story with her strong, realistic prose. This drama of the not-so-distant past captured my interest from beginning to end. "
Story Circle Book Reviews

"A prequel to Gerber’s award-winning The Kingdom of Brooklyn (1992), this work explores the lives of Rachel and Rose, immigrant sisters whose unsatisfactory husbands and arduous lives on New York’s Lower East Side become a template for the lives of Rachel’s three daughters and her granddaughters as well. Individual chapters are narrated from the very different perspectives of the four main women characters. We see thwarted loves, betrayals by relatives, and the poverty that marks their lives. Both Rachel and her daughter Ava marry for security rather than love; Rachel’s spoiled daughter Musetta deliberately weds the man her sister Gilda loves. World War II brings catastrophic changes, taking brothers and sons. Gerber’s unblinking portrait of immigrant Jewish lives during the first half of the 20th century creates a realistic view of the complexities of families who for better or worse manage to stay connected by swallowing resentments, coming to terms with life, and trying to achieve some measure of contentment. Recommended for large public libraries and those serving Jewish communities."
Library Journal

"...Gerber’s work, infused with Jewish narrative...provides a poignant and sweeping look at an era ..."
The Jewish Journal

"In pursuit of illumination and understanding, Gerber maps the human condition in all its web of troubled desire."
Cynthia Ozick

Chosen for the prestigious New York City publication, Mann About Town’s Books to Read this Month

Description
In The Victory Gardens of Brooklyn, Merrill Joan Gerber, so often applauded for her pure and natural prose, illuminates the sorrows and triumphs of three generations of sisters from an American Jewish family. Rachel and Rose, who come to America from Poland, discover their fates in New York’s Lower East Side, where "the streets are paved with gold." Rachel’s daughters, Ava, Musetta, and Gilda, live the passionate drama of their family’s destiny while the world fights two wars. In war and peace the men they love, their husbands and sons, bring them both ecstasy and bitter grief. Musetta’s daughters, Issa and Iris, bring the story to its poignant close at the end of World War II.

With a delicate touch yet piercing insight, Gerber explores the yearnings, loves, and struggles of women who try to adapt the Jewish rituals of the "old country" to the requirements of the new world. Ava marries young to escape the wrath of her stepfather, while his favorite daughters, Musetta and Gilda, begin a battle of wills that will last a lifetime. Musetta, beautiful but troubled by jealousies and anger, taunts shy and delicate Gilda, who is anguished that the man destined to marry her falls in love with her sister. In this epic tale, Gerber’s unerring pen explores, with forthrightness and compassion, a mosaic of family life in all its entanglements, revelations, and victories.

View other books in the Library of Modern Jewish Literature

Author
Merrill Joan Gerber is a prize-winning novelist and short story writer who has published seven novels—among them The Kingdom of Brooklyn, winner of the Ribalow Award from Hadassah Magazine. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, Atlantic, Mademoiselle, Redbook, Commentary, Sewanee Review, American Scholar, Southwest Review, and other publications. She is professor of fiction writing at the California Institute of Technology.

6 1/8 x 9 1/4, 360 pages


The Victory Gardens of Brooklyn A Novel

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