Only the Beautiful: A Thought-Provoking, Historical Novel

Only the Beautiful, published this past April by author Susan Meissner, who is a master of historical fiction, is a gut-wrenching but ultimately uplifting story of maternal love, family, guilt and remorse, and the fear of those who are ‘different.’ When the book opens, the world is on the cusp of another world war, but Rosie is happily living on a vineyard in Sonoma, California, with her parents as caretakers. When tragedy strikes, she is taken in by the Calverts, the vineyard owners, not as a

Reviewer Hilary Daninhirsch Interviews Lisa Kohn, Author of To the Moon and Back: A Childhood Under the Influence

Cults. Not much good to say about ’em. But the reason religious organizations like Scientology, Branch Davidians, Children of God, and The Unification Church have attracted followers throughout history is because they offered the promise of something rewarding, meaningful, soul satisfying. And, to some extent, those dangerous orgs delivered on that promise. But after a honeymoon period, for most cult members there seems to be an inevitable “waking up” and subsequent escape from the clutches of t

New book offers wisdom from a braided loaf

What does baking challah have in common with life? How does it relate to medical wisdom? How can the process of baking challah be transformative? Dr. Beth Ricanati, a Los Angeles-based internist who specializes in women’s health and wellness, explores answers to those questions and more in her delightful food memoir, “Braided: A Journey of a Thousand Challahs.” Over the years, Ricanati, a mother of three, has baked a homemade challah every Friday for her family. Sometimes she bakes alone; othe

Review of The Healing

Through yoga and a macrobiotic diet, Saeeda Hafiz was able to conquer the demons of her past and escape her family’s cycle of violence and drug abuse. In The Healing, Hafiz tells her story in raw, unflinchingly honest prose, and the result is epic. Born in Pittsburgh, Hafiz grew up in an unhappy home where love felt conditional. But she persevered, went to college, and secured a well-paying job. Still, she felt adrift, and had difficulty reconciling her achievements with her background. When H

More than 60 years later, ‘The Changelings’ still resonates

Housing integration and the knee-jerk reaction of white flight is the central theme in “The Changelings,” a timeless novel by Jo Sinclair that is relevant today, more than 60 years after its publication in 1955. Although there are now laws to protect all citizens from housing discrimination, the themes of pervasive racism and the underlying fears that propel it are timely issues. The story takes place in an Ohio town in 1945 and revolves around a close-knit working class neighborhood that is mo

Review of The Indigo Girl

Natasha Boyd’s The Indigo Girl introduces an all-but-forgotten, real-life historical figure, Eliza Lucas, while providing a fascinating glimpse into the origins of indigo dye production in the United States. Society was not ready for Eliza Lucas. In 1739, her father, who had to return to Antigua, put her in charge of the family plantations in what was then called Charles Town, South Carolina. Eliza’s brothers were away at school, and her mother had health issues. Just sixteen years old, Eliza,

Review of The Lemon Jell-O Syndrome

A funny, touching story is enlivened by literary techniques that will delight word nerds. A quirky but lovable word nerd develops an unusual neurological syndrome, in Man Martin’s The Lemon Jell-O Syndrome, an intelligent, whimsical gem of a novel that appeals to the grammar nerd in us all. Bone King is a college professor whose life revolves around the etymology of words. He entertains himself by diagramming sentences and compiling cliché inventories. Nonetheless, words fail him when it comes

‘We Were the Lucky Ones’ tells of resilience, hope

Imagine growing up never knowing that you were from a family of Holocaust survivors. Then imagine that once you discovered the truth, you learned that there was an incredible story behind the story, one that truly defined the meaning of “lucky.” Author Georgia Hunter was 15 when she learned that her grandfather, Eddy Courts, whose real name was Addy Kurc, was born in Radom, Poland in 1914 into a well-to-do Jewish family. She never thought much about the fact that he was fluent in so many langua

When We Meet Again by Kristin Harmel | Review | Historical Novels Review

I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for stories in which a modern-day character finds a mysterious artifact of family history and embarks on a journey to learn more, one that also leads to self-discovery. While this may not be a new theme for an historical novel, there is nothing formulaic about When We Meet Again, as it is a delight from start to finish. In the present day, Emily Emerson, who has just lost her job, consciously isolates herself from close relationships, in part stemming from her father

The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman | Review | Historical Novels Review

The time frame is the late 1940s, the place is Brooklyn. Common to that era, two Jewish families share two floors of a home. The family consists of the affable Abe and his wife, Helen, and the more acerbic Mort and his wife, Rose. Abe and Helen have only boys, and Mort and Rose have girls. Abe and Mort are in business together, and the two sisters-in-law have a close friendship. The cousins are in and out of each other’s houses all the time, while the family spends holidays and vacations togethe

Retro Review: ‘Wandering Star’ continues to be a Yiddish gem not to be missed

Sholem Aleichem was the nom de plume of Solomon Rabinovich, who wrote the classic short stories about “Tevye the Dairyman” that became the foundation for “Fiddler on the Roof.” True to his comedic roots, Aleichem also wrote “Wandering Stars,” a boisterous and highly entertaining novel based on the glory days of Yiddish theater. At the center of the story, set in the years before World War I, are two star-crossed lovers, Leibel, the son of the village’s richest man, and Reizel, the cantor’s she

Mystery Scene

What if a book really wasn’t just a book? What if your favorite spy thriller was part of a larger secret government plot? Jesse Kellerman, in his latest novel, Potboiler, imagines just such a scenario. Arthur Pfefferkorn is a failed writer. Af- ter writing a novel decades earlier, to little or no acclaim, he ended up becoming a creative writing professor at a local college. He is a widower who plods along through life with a secret desire to light the world on fire with a blockbuster novel. His