Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Review: The Family with Two Front Doors by Anna Ciddor


Meet the Rabinovitches: mischievous Yakov, bubbly Nomi, rebellious Miriam, solemn Shlomo, and seven more! Papa is a rabbi and their days are full of intriguing Jewish rituals and lots of adventures in 1920s Poland. But the biggest adventure of all is when big sister Adina is told she is to be married at the age of fifteen—to someone she has never met.

Reading this immediately put me in mind of the All-of-a-Kind Family books. Light, family-oriented stories perfectly suited to patrons asking for "wholesome" books, in which the major tension happens when the challa bread is dropped on the floor before baking. No sex, no drugs, no political upheaval.

Of course, there is the custom of arranged marriages, which may horrify some. I look at the whole book as a window into a different culture, not a promotion or condemnation either way, just a simple fact of this-is-how-it-was (and still is for some). Even as the customs of a traditionally observant orthodox Jewish family may be foreign, the feeling of finally being deemed old enough to help with an adult task is universal. (And the establishment of the groom's character is done very sweetly, in my opinion.)

The entire book is based on the stories of Ciddor's grandmother's childhood, and every main character quickly becomes distinct in the reader's mind. I am hopeful that there will be more stories to come (although the author's afterward tells us they won't be forthcoming from some quarters - skip that if you want to stick with the happy ending.)

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