Modern Girls Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
In 1935, Dottie Krasinsky is the epitome of the modern girl. A bookkeeper in midtown Manhattan, Dottie steals kisses from her steady beau, meets her girlfriends for drinks, and eyes the latest fashions. Yet at heart, she is a dutiful daughter, living with her Yiddish-speaking parents on the Lower East Side. So when, after a single careless night, she finds herself in a family way by a charismatic but unsuitable man, she is desperate: unwed, unsure, and running out of options.
After the birth of five children - and 20 years as a housewife - Dottie's immigrant mother, Rose, is itching to return to the social activism she embraced as a young woman. With strikes and breadlines at home and National Socialism rising in Europe, there is much more important work to do than cooking and cleaning. So when she realizes that she, too, is pregnant, she struggles to reconcile her longings with her faith.
As mother and daughter wrestle with unthinkable choices, they are forced to confront their beliefs, the changing world, and the fact that their lives will never again be the same.
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|Listening Length||13 hours and 20 minutes|
|Author||Jennifer S. Brown|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||December 20, 2016|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #185,160 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#265 in Jewish Literature (Audible Books & Originals)
#815 in Jewish Historical Fiction
#1,612 in Jewish Literature & Fiction
Reviewed in the United States on August 24, 2016
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Jennifer Brown also skillfully weaves accurate historical details into the story. Hitler is on the rise in Europe, where violence against Jews is increasing. Jews are trying to escape to America, but a recently passed law reducing the yearly quota of Jews entering the United States has made leaving Europe more difficult (history repeating itself?). Unions are on the rise, and many immigrants belong to the Socialist party. Demonstrations, often violent, are commonplace.
It is in this setting that I meet Rose and Dottie Krazinsky. Rose is the traditional Old World Jewish wife and mother. Dottie, the eldest child, is a Modern Girl. Dottie, fashion-forward, leaves the Lower East Side each day for her job as a bookkeeper in Midtown Manhattan. Rose, on the other hand, rises before the sun to begin her unimaginable list of daily tasks. Just reading about one task, laundry for her large family, exhausts me! Note to self: never again complain about mixing colors and whites.
Rose is also a political activist. Amongst her daily chores, she attempts to expedite the immigration of a relative, assists those being evicted from their flats by crooked landlords, hands out pamphlets and attends demonstrations, despite her bad leg. For entertainment, she plays cards with women friends.
Dottie is engaged to Abe, and they socialize over drinks with friends at a local café. Until they save sufficient money, Abe refuses to get married. One weekend, she journeys to Camp Eden, a leisure spot outside the city (where one can rent a tent), and makes a life-altering mistake with gadabout, Willie Klein. In Dottie's words, "The mistake will be with me for six more months" after she realizes her plight.
At the same time, Rose learns that she is pregnant at age 42. Both women keep their secret until Dottie breaks down and tells her mother. Both women are frantic. Rose is worn to a frazzle caring for her large brood. Dottie will be shunned if she has a child out of wedlock.
In this context, the mother-daughter relationship evolves. For me, the story is timeless and is demonstrative of that unique bond. I thought of my mother as the story develops. What would she do? What would she say to me? What would I do?
Jennifer Brown seamlessly alternates chapters between Rose and Dottie. The characters are so richly developed that I cannot stop wondering what became of them after I read the last page.
MODERN GIRLS is much more than Women's Fiction. It is a meticulously researched history of an era and a story that mothers and daughters should share. I loved every word.
Rose, a 42-year-old mother of five, believes her childbearing days are done. A politically passionate woman whose activism forced her to flee Russia as a young girl, she swears she won't be like her own mother, shackled to hearth and home by 11 children. Not when the local workers are trying to organize, tenants are fighting illegal evictions, and the Socialists are meeting down the block. As her youngest child begins school, she sees a world of opportunities open before her...until the familiar nausea and bloating begins again.
Her nineteen-year-old daughter, Dottie, has just been promoted to head bookkeeper at the insurance company. She's got a head for numbers, and Rose has saved enough money to pay for her to go to night school at New York University. Her sweet, observant boyfriend, Abe, has promised to marry her in the spring. She's poised to carry the next generation of Krasinsky women forward to even greater opportunity and prosperity...until, after a single night of passion with another man, her world narrows in an instant.
With clear-eyed prose and a welcome lack of sentimentality, Jennifer Brown lays out the impossible choices mother and daughter face at a time when an unwanted pregnancy meant ruin for an unmarried woman and years of postponed intellectual fulfillment for a married one. She deftly evokes the vibrant Jewish immigrant community in New York in the 1930s, a loud, crowded, striving conclave in which Old World parents try to preserve the traditions of a dozen generations while their New World children dream of a city that treats tradition like dust on its feet but who still can't escape the heavy hand of cultural and social expectations. Every scene is as vividly realized as if it were a scene in a movie, from the rituals of shabbeh to the boys playing baseball in the street, and every character is complex, flawed, and relatable.
There is no easy answer for either of the Krasinsky women, and Jennifer Brown does not flinch in her storytelling. This book has stayed in the front of my mind ever since I finished it, and as I look at my own 17-year-old daughter, I am grateful that, whatever difficult decisions she may face in the years to come, she will not have the circumscribed options of her foremothers. Modern Girls is a moving and thought-provoking read.
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I loved the juxtaposition of Rose's experience with Dottie's. I loved the way they each thought the other didn't understand them, when they were clearly chips off exactly the same block.
The characters sprang to life in my mind as I read, and the ending left me longing to find out more, what happens next?