Publishing year: 1985
The story begins in New Jersey in 1981.
Esther is an old lady who is turning 80, and all her family has gathered to celebrate the day. We know that she has been writing to her sister Rosa in England for years, but it is decades now that her sister stopped writing. Yet, now she’s received a letter now, telling her that Esther’s children have sent her a ticket for her to fly to America and surprise her sister. Esther feels confused and angry. We don’t know much about the relationship so far, only that the two sisters were close when they grew up.
Then time takes us to the beginning of the twentieth century in Ukraine. That’s where Rosa and Esther grow up. Esther adores her sister; Rosa has taken her sister under her wing since her mother is too busy with her baby boy. We get to learn about the way Jews were scorned and subjected to violence. People travelled to America, hoping to find freedom, but sometimes like in the case of the baker, the men simply went with the promise of sending for their wives but then they were never heard of. I suspect that the baker simply found a better life and even another woman, so he purposefully forgot about his wife.
Esther is a lovely child, but it’s sad to see the way her mother treats her. She favours the two boys she has and also Rosa, since she’s prettier and cleverer. Esther feels the difference strongly, and she realizes her shortcomings in comparison with her siblings. We know that after getting married Rosa went to live to England, and I guess the same happened to Esther but her destination was America. I wonder if something happened between the sisters to cause this silence from Rosa.
The beginning of the book is intriguing and interesting. I don’t know much about the Jews in Ukraine, and I can see that their story is also very sad.