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Publisher's Summary

Three generations of Roths live together in a crowded tenement flat. Long-widowed Manya is the family's head and its heart. She's renowned throughout the neighborhood for her cooking, and every noontime the front room of the flat turns into Manya's private restaurant. But Manya is no soft touch, except, perhaps, where her granddaughter Elka is concerned. Precocious Elka is her closest companion and confidante. Through Elka's eyes we come to know the fascinating characters who move in and out of the Roths' lives. Money may have been short, but opinions were not, and their tart tongues and lively humor abound. In this riveting story lies the heart of the American immigrant experience: a novel at once wise, funny, poignant, anguishing, exultant, and bursting with love.
©2005 Eleanor Widmer; (P)2005 Blackstone Audiobooks
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Critic Reviews

2005 Audie Award Nominee, Solo Narration (Female)
"Poignant snapshot of a long-lost era and place....[This] first novel offers pungent, nostalgic vignettes of Jewish life on Manhattan's Lower East Side." (Kirkus Reviews)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Sara on 08-10-14

Tenement Life From a Child's Point of View

As the author states in the afterward of the book-this book is part biography, part fiction and all true. It tells a sweeping story of living in poverty in the tenements of NYC through the eyes of young Elka. The book reminded me of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn at first. However, I can understand why it isn't on a youth reading list anywhere. This story is peppered with frank talk about sex, infidelity and off-color jokes. Much of this was unnecessary for the story. It is a shame that this content makes it inappropriate for young people because it is an engaging tale filled with growth, insight and change.

I agree with another reviewer that I would have liked a better time line. I found myself wondering what year it was when the action took place and hoping for an easier tracking of time progression. Instead there were vague mentions of "the war". Having firmer grounding in time would have made the story fit more easily into the world going on around it.

Lorna Raver, the narrator, did a great job. I really enjoyed her enthusiasm. It was a long book but the listening time flew by and my attention was held effortlessly. Parts of the book are difficult listening, as the poverty, chronic illness, filth and constant struggle are harsh realities. That said, it is a good story and I'm glad I listened.

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33 of 37 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Carol on 08-15-09

My Life

Could not believe it, I still smell the sour pickles,nuts and dried fruits.The urine in the stairwells,my mother would hit the steps to scare the rats & the drunkes.I remeber my mother shoveling coal in some tenaments. Then we would get slippers in the lower eastside for 5 cents put them on the pushcart and sell for 20cents if we could get it. Classified as non-fiction for me. I remeber mom!To Life!

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9 of 12 people found this review helpful

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