Odessa, Odessa is a History of Judaism in the U.S.

odessa odessa

This is a readable, educational book about the history Jews have faced in the United States, and, to a more limited extent, in Israel. It is a story of oppression and flight and families and how they react to stress in their lives.
It revolves around a Jewish family that emigrates from Russia to the U.S. in the early part of the 20th century.
The biggest problem with this book is the lack of a single protagonist. Just when we’re getting comfortable with one point of view, it switches, and the voice of the previous POV dies or disappears, only to be resurrected as a character later in the book. It’s confusing and distracting, and diminishes what could be a very good, or even excellent book.
I searched for a word to describe the emotional tenor of Odessa, Odessa and the word I came up with was “overwrought.”
The tragic events in the book, especially in the first half, speak for themselves, and most of the time, there is no need to illustrate with excessive emotion. Some events, like the daughters’ search for their ancestors in the latter part of the 20th century do seem to overlay what should be a methodical investigation with emotion.
But, again, overall the book is quite readable if you take all this into account.
I like the fact that I learned a little something about Judaism, and also about Palestinian refugee settlements in Israel.
Few would expect to find that in a book that is essentially a history of the Jewish people.
After investigating, I found out the author based this book on her family, and that her mother worked in a garment factory in New York in the early 1900s, as does a major character in the book. I salute the author for doing what so many wish to do — put the history of their families on paper.

This book will not be available until September, 2018.

Grade: B

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