Pre-teen Gingy and her older sister Tootsie's lives change forever in 1947, when an unnamed "situation" befalls their family, sending them to live in New York with grandparents Ettie and Mr. Goldberg. Ilene Beckerman, the actual name of young Gingy, tells us how this turn of events exposed her to the daily wisdom of her grandmother in The Smartest Woman I Know (Algonquin Books, 2011). In it, Beckerman recalls Ettie's many opinions on a wide range of topics and her few reservations about sharing them.
In a style that echos a good story told by all grandmothers, these short recollections are simple, unadorned, and direct, yet they carry a poignancy and weight belied by their brevity. Ettie's advice to her young charges makes evident how much she cares for them, but also how wide the generation gap can be. Underneath the surface of these memories and quips about not eating so much, are such weighty topics as the changing roles of women, the evolving face of New York City, and shifts in popular culture. Although very specific to mid-century New York, these rememberances do retain a universal quality which allows them to speak to us all. We have all felt loss. We have all felt outside of the mainstream. We have all felt love.
Each page is accompanied by simple and cute line drawings that either stand alone or embellish actual photographs from the time. These serve to highlight the humor in these stories and seem to take the place of the hand gestures and facial expressions that you might experience should Beckerman be sitting next to you telling you the story directly. She finds the levity in the personality quirks and actions of her family members, but her treatment of them is one of respectful love.
You may recall Gingy and Tootsie from previous tales, as this is the fifth offering from Beckerman. This collection, nothing short of a love letter to a beloved grandmother, promises as much honest emotion and relatability. They say everyone needs a Jewish grandmother to make sure that you eat well and feel an appropriate amount of guilt about how much time you spend with your elders. We're fortunate that Beckerman is willing to share hers.
Algonquin Books is generously offering three copies of The Smartest Woman I Know to three lucky A Life Sustained readers.
Just leave a comment on this post to be entered in the random drawing to win. Comments will be closed and a winner will be chosen in the evening of October 29.
And the winners are:
"Sounds like a great book. Thanks for the giveaway!"
"this sounds so lovely, makes me want to write a book for my own children and grandchildren (and i'm not a writer). i would love to have a chance to win, i already feel attached to this book on several levels, being a mother, grandmother, having a child living in nyc, i'm really grateful to learn about this author and book.
thank you for the giveaway. :)"
I would love to read this book, thanks for the giveaway!
This review is part of a TLC Book tour. Check out the other stops to read their thoughts on the book and for additional chances to win a copy!
Monday, October 17th: Arriving at Your Own Door
Thursday, October 20th: Books Distilled
Saturday, October 22nd: A Life Sustained
Monday, October 24th: Sarah Reads Too Much
Tuesday, October 25th: Quinceberry
Wednesday, October 26th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Thursday, October 27th: Suko’s Notebook
Tuesday, November 1st: Overstuffed
Wednesday, November 2nd: The Indextrious Reader
Thursday, November 3rd: Evolution You
Friday, November 4th: Colloquium
Monday, November 7th: Life in Review
Tuesday, November 8th: Lesa’s Book Critiques
This review was first published on Blogcritics.
My review copy was provided courtesy of Algonquin Books.