Michelle Herman, Author Ohio State University Press $15.95 (146p) ISBN 978-0-8142-0503-7
Short story writer Herman, who teaches creative writing at Ohio State, has taken a major chance with her first novel. It is set in the claustrophobic world inhabited by an elderly Jewish widow, Rivke Vasilevsky. She lives alone in a Brooklyn apartment, so frail she can barely hoist herself out of the bathtub, often dozing through the days, then insomniac at night. Her life is constructed from her memories, and from phone calls from her children, particularly her favorite granddaughter, Rachel. The book's title refers to a packet of beads from a beloved old dress, which unaccountably disappears, and the turmoil this causes the old lady. It is, then, a slight tale, no more than a novella in length; but it has a density that suggests a much bigger book. Herman's ear is perfect; she employs exemplary narrative skills to ensure that the monotony and gloom of Rivke's life do not also infect the reader, and the result is a small triumph: the creation of a character, and a way of life, in all their poignant human complexity. There must be hundreds of women like Rivke who would be consoled by this deeply understanding study of old age. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 978-0-8142-0519-8
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