Holding My Breath
Beth Levy’s story of growing up starts out in a most unusual fashion. She tells us about her parents’ wedding day: where it took place, how one of her grandmother’s tablecloths served as a chuppah, why there even was a chuppah when her parents, Goldie and Saul, didn’t want a religious Jewish wedding. There was the fact that God forgot to watch over the chicken soup her grandmother planned to serve. And most arresting was the sensation of her mother’s brother’s eyes on her parents when they went up to their room to be alone for a few minutes after the ceremony. Philip, the beloved brother and uncle who died in World War II. Philip, who will have such a strong impact on Beth’s life.
Beth grows up in the ’50s and ’60s in Winnipeg, an only child, but with two aunts who play the role of older sisters. Carrie, an expert seamstress, spins stories of Philip and his love of astronomy, which entice Beth and impact her future. Sarah, who is only ten years older than Beth, is the glamorous one, the one who longs for a life beyond the close family and community relationships of Jewish Winnipeg. Goldie struggles through the early years of her marriage, living in an apartment over her husband’s pharmacy, helping out with the business, and taking care of Beth. Yet she longs for acceptance with the Jewish matrons of the neighborhood, longing to be invited to join Hadassah and the synagogue sisterhood. This would show she was accepted and respected in the community. Goldie’s ambitions belong to one generation, while Beth and Sarah belong to another.
This affecting novel follows the paths of all these women, their relationships and aspirations. They are paths well worth following.
270, 272, 256