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Up From Orchard Street
by Eleanor Widmer

Category: Fiction / Historical
0 pages; ISBN: 0553804006

Rating: 10/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Harriet Klausner


Up From Orchard Street
Eleanor Widmer
Bantam, Aug 2005, $23.00
ISBN: 0553804006

Teenage Manya and her spouse accompanied by their infant son Abraham Jacob left Odessa, Russia for New York, but her husband died during the journey. Manya obtained work at Grenspan’s Bakery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. When Jack turned four, Manya sent for her much younger sister seven years old Bertha to live with her and her son.

Her cooking gets Manya a following and soon a typesetter at the Jewish Forward enables her to open her own restaurant on Orchard Street. In the 1930s, Jack works in the fashion industry where he meets and marries the delicate from childhood illnesses but lovely Lil, who is the opposite of her steel magnolia mother-in-law. They have two children and adopt a starving black child whose name sounds almost like Clayton so they call him Clayton. Through the three generations, Manya is the matriarchal soul of this Jewish family, but changes are coming with a cafeteria opening nearby and a trip to Connecticut.

LIFE FROM ORCHARD STREET is told by one of the grandchildren Elka about life in a 1930s Jewish family, which centers on “Bubby” Manya. Elka provides insider depth to life in the Lower East Side of New York as few writers have accomplished. With photos from the era and specific historical places (my Bubby used to take me shopping on Orchard Street, which was in the early 1960s the best bargain around if you were willing to negotiate) included in the fine plot, readers will conclude that this is a superb biographical fictionalized account paying homage to Eleanor Widmer’s bubby as well as to the late author who recently passed away.

Harriet Klausner


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