Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

I can't believe that it has been so long since I have actually finished a book. Life has been crazy with traveling and working for a couple of clients. I had been reading Alaska by James Michener before we traveled there, but I got bogged down. At least I had read the early history part and had a grasp of some of the native history and practices that we saw and about which we heard.

The Boston Girl  is Addie Baum and the premise of the novel is Addie's response to her granddaughter's question, "how did you become the woman you are today.?" In great detail she recollects her life as the daughter of Jewish immigrants who only spoke Yiddish at home. Her father came to America before his wife and daughter. Resentful that she lost a child on the voyage, Addie's mother, Mameh,  carries a heavy chip on her shoulder that makes her a very unpleasant and angry woman. She never understands or wants to understand life in America and smothers Addie to the point where Addie must secretly follow her desire to become an independent woman. Addie's older sisters, Betty and Celia, provide a path for Addie to follow as she becomes that woman she wants to be. 

As a young girl Addie goes to school, but education is only supported for the time leading up to high school. But Addie is intelligent and she manages to convince her parents to let her go to one year of high school. After her school day Addie begins to go to the local settlement house where she finds herself under the tutelage of Miss. Chevalier. She is encourage to go to the Saturday Club whose members travel to The Rockport Lodge for a week's vacation. It is there that Addie gains confidence and friends. Those friends provide a support system for the rest of Addie's life as she confronts life's tragedies and triumphs. She recounts how she met Aaron, who would become her husband.

The story is a good, fast, warm read. It is that kind of a book in which you could immerse yourself for an afternoon and be perfectly content. However, Diamant doesn't just give the reader a good story, but also reason to ponder the social history of our country. She describes the role religion has played in shaping families and its importance in Addie's family from her father who finds his comfort zone in the temple to the pride that Addie feels when she learns a granddaughter is going to rabbinical school. The theme of rights for children is vividly described. From the factories to the orphan trains Addie recounts the movements that were developed to alleviate the inhumane conditions under which children lived.

We chose this book for the August meeting of the Gables Book Club. I was preparing to absolutely love this book. As it turned out, I just really liked the book. It is a good story, but I didn't feel that the writing was as good as The Red Tent. Maybe that was because of the conversational style. At any rate, I am glad that I read it and will look forward to hearing Anita Diamant speak about it at the Pittsburgh Arts and Lecture series in October.