The Reformer’s Apprentice: A Novel of Old San Francisco
Rochlin’s Desert Dwellers Trilogy begins with The Reformer’s Apprentice. Seventeen-year-old Frieda Levie has lived a charmed life north of Market Street. She dreams of attending Girl’s High and enthusiastically supports the Sisters of Service, a woman’s rightist group lead by the indomitable Miss O’Hara. All her dreams, however, crash along with the Bank of California in 1875. Forced to move with her family south of Market Street, Frieda now slaves eighteen hours a day to support her family’s kosher boarding house, while outwitting the less then desirable residents. She finds joy only in the occasional meetings with the Sisters of Service and the solace offered by Miss O’Hara. Like Cinderella before her, Frieda does find love unexpectedly in the form of Benny Goldson, a free-wheeling, red-haired pioneer from the Arizona Territory (and Jewish to boot!). Together they dream of making the world a better place.
Best known for her social history Pioneer Jews: A New Life in the Far West, Harriet Rochlin has incorporated her meticulous research into this wonderful series of novels. Torn between family and freedom, tradition and individualism, Frieda Levie Goldson draws us into her tumultuous world. The lively characters that inhabit Frieda’s world keep us guessing as to what trouble they will tumble into next. Painted against the backdrop of old San Francisco and sun-bleached Dos Cacahuates with such precise detail, a reader could easily feel caught up in the history that built the American West.