Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

It's been a while since I've come across a novel that I finish in a few days (I would have finished it in a day if I didn't have to work!).  Once again, my theory that books come to you when you're ready to read them has proven to be true for me.  The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant is a novel that I've seen countless times, and yes, even talked about a few weeks ago at two book club meetings--but I had never read it.  A trip to the library ensured that I read it right away.  I am so glad I did, and here's why.

The Boston Girl is narrated by Addie Baum, born in 1900 to Jewish immigrant parents, and the youngest of three daughters:  Betty, Celia, and Addie.  They live in Boston, in a nasty tenement, and scrape by working hard and living simply.  Addie tells her story from the age of 85 to her granddaughter, and it's a wonderful story that will pull you in and make you smile.  No, this is not what some people term an "immigrant success story", but more about a young woman who finds her voice and herself during a time where women (and her cultural heritage) believed marriage and babies were the only type of life suitable for young girls.  

But Addie is made of sterner stuff; she goes to school, but her mother--a real pill!--Mameh wants her to work in a factory to help provide for the family.  Addie joins the Saturday Club, where girls gathered to talk, gossip, and learn about life.  There she forms life-long friendships and begins to understand there is a big world out there to explore.  Addie tells her story with wit and humor, and as we all do, a gentle laugh at the naive young girl she once was; especially with men.  Moving from the early 1900's through 1985, we see Addie grow up, mature, and bounce from secretary jobs, to newspaper columnist, to teacher.  

Addie is probably one of my favorite characters so far this reading year.  Proper, yet never stiff, humorous and faithful to friends, she struggles to be accepted by her Mameh, who always sees Addie as a traitor to their Jewish heritage and a failure.  Addie is a woman who wants more for herself, and is always open to ideas, notions, and the ever-changing role of women in the early 20th century.  

Loved this novel.  Just loved it.  Written very simply and straightforward; yet carries a powerful message.  I wish I had had a chance to have such a talk with both of my grandmothers.  If you're lucky to have grandmothers in your life, sit down and simply say "Tell me about your life.".  You will get an incredible education.  

Rating:  8/10 for Addie and her life story about growing up in Boston in the early 20th century.  A simple and engaging life story told with gentle humor and grace.

Available in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and audio.

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