The Soup Has Many Eyes: From Shtetl to Chicago--A Memoir of One Family's Journey Through History

Joann Rose Leonard, Author Bantam Books $18.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-553-80159-0
Framing her memoir as a letter to her two sons, Leonard, who writes and directs plays for children and adolescents, blends the details of her daily life with the story of her Jewish family's escape from persecution in Eastern Europe. As she stirs borscht, made according to her great-grandmother's recipe in an iron pot inherited from her great-grandfather, she converses with the spirits of her ancestors. Principal among them is Leonard's great-uncle Berney, one of six Axelrood brothers living with their families in Tetiev, a western Russian shtetl, when the pogroms of the early 1900s erupted. Leonard poignantly describes how the family scattered in order to escape violent death at the hands of the Cossacks and eventually regrouped in Kiev before immigrating to the U.S. Yet while many of her family stories--such as one of the 12-year disappearance of one child--are stirring, Leonard's loosely constructed narrative undercuts the Axelroods' tragedies and triumphs. In addition, while her ornate prose style can be effective in dramatizing some of the historical vignettes, it's excessive applied to Leonard's mundane activities (""I begin the day just as if I had never before tasted the elixir of that first swallow of coffee, never felt the exquisite lick of morning light warming my chilled skin... ""). Although readers may find the Axelrood family history compelling, Leonard's unwieldy style diminishes its power. B&w photos. Agent, Frances Goldin. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 978-0-553-66778-3
Paperback - 192 pages - 978-0-553-38072-9
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