Monday, April 4, 2016

Modern Girls, by Jennifer S. Brown

Berkley Publishing Group/NAL, ISBN 9780451477125. April 2016

The Krasinkys are a Russian Jewish family living in New York City in the years leading up to World War II, and this is the story of Rose Krasinsky and her oldest child, her only daughter, Dottie. The Great Depression is still strong, though FDR has begun the New Deal programs that will alleviate it.

Dottie is nineteen, working as a bookkeeper at an insurance company, and engaged to her boyfriend of three years, Abe Rabinowitz. Rose is 42, though husband Ben thinks she's 39, volunteers with relief groups, and cares for her home, husband, and children. The three younger ones are Izzy, at seventeen,  Alfie, just a few years younger, and Eugene, just seven.

Rose and Dottie have each just discovered they are pregnant.

It's alarming news for both, and potentially disastrous for Dottie, especially since Abe is not the father. After a fight with Abe, Dottie succumbed to anger and temptation with another young man in the neighborhood.

Together and separately, Rose and Dottie have to work their way through the complexities of their situations, struggling as much with their perceptions of themselves as modern women and Americans rather than women of the Old Country as they are with the very complicated practicalities. The character development and lived background of the time and place are marvelously done. Brown presents a layered reality you can get lost in, and there are no cardboard characters here at all.

Recommended.

I received a free electronic galley from the publisher via NetGalley.