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The Grandmother's Club

de Alan Cheuse

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352558,723 (3.33)5
This is the life story of Manny Bloch as told by his mother in her old age. Manny becomes a rabbi, marries the wrong girl, leaves the clergy for business and finds his relationship with his daughter is tainted by his growing wealth.

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This book gives a whole new meaning to the the word "yenta". In Alan Cheuse's novel, the narrator, Mrs. Minnie Bloch (and, oh, does he do her voice well!) airs the dirty laundry of her family to a small group of her contemporaries. I guess mothers or grandmothers all do this to some extent, but it's amazing to read how this story develops as Mrs. Bloch watches her son and granddaughter make some rough life choices which end in even tougher situations. Nevertheless, Minnie Bloch remains available and supportive to them. What a Jewish motherly and grandmotherly thing to do!

The story tells of Minnie Bloch's son, Manny, who decides to become a rabbi after witnessing the death of his father in a freak accident. Later in life, Manny decides to move away from the pulpit and try a different direction for his life by going into business with his brother-in-law. Manny's daughter Sarah has a particularly difficult relationship with her father as he moves away from his former life as a rabbi.

Mrs. Bloch's narrative oftens goes on and on, sometimes wearyingly so, but her words are threaded with thoughtful ideas and remain full of the fervent desire to relate how deeply she cares about her family. Yes, her words are peppered with "Oi, oi, oi..." when things do go wrong, but she always has a carefully prepared meal to offer when things need to be remedied, the latter being a trait which makes this character achingly familiar. I felt an immediate companionship to her and loved the way the author brought the story of this particular family to light.

Be forewarned that this is a troubling story, although that fact is not apparent at its outset. I found it to be one, however, which wapped its pages around me and took me to its heart. This book is a gem of a story in the way that it is told and one which I feel should circulate among a much wider audience. I hope I can entice more readers to give it a try. ( )
4 vote SqueakyChu | Apr 16, 2012 |
This story unfolds in an unbroken narrative made up of a series of conversations between an old Jewish grandmother and an assortment of women with whom she shares her stories. It begins with the grandmother, Minnie Bloch's, own story, of her husband Jacob and their decision to come to America with their young son . Jacob is tragically killed and his son, Manny, who witnesses the death of his father, will carry the scars of that tragedy throughout his own life. Mrs. Bloch continues the story of her son and his family, sharing with her companions and the reader all the detailed intimacies that have affected their lives and informed their decisions. Mrs. Bloch's voice reads as authentic and as her world darkens, both from blindness and from the actions of those around her, the reader find himself completely absorbed in her narrative. This is a story about choices, our own as well as the choices of others, and how they direct our lives. It is a dark book, and not for those who want a cheerful, upbeat ending. With that reservation, however, I recommend it. ( )
  turtlesleap | Nov 2, 2010 |
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This is the life story of Manny Bloch as told by his mother in her old age. Manny becomes a rabbi, marries the wrong girl, leaves the clergy for business and finds his relationship with his daughter is tainted by his growing wealth.

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