In A Cold Open Field

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in 1950, Eva and Sol Greenfield receive a telegram from the Department of the Army informing then that their son, Ben, in missing in action in Korea. The effect of the telegram is devastating. Eva, an orthodox Jewish woman, goes to a fortune teller in Coney Island for comfort. "In A Cold Open Field" explores the developing relationship between the two women, as Eva desperately needs to deny the death of her child and the fortune teller takes advantage of Eva's need for her own gain. "In A Cold Open Field" was a ...

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Overview

in 1950, Eva and Sol Greenfield receive a telegram from the Department of the Army informing then that their son, Ben, in missing in action in Korea. The effect of the telegram is devastating. Eva, an orthodox Jewish woman, goes to a fortune teller in Coney Island for comfort. "In A Cold Open Field" explores the developing relationship between the two women, as Eva desperately needs to deny the death of her child and the fortune teller takes advantage of Eva's need for her own gain. "In A Cold Open Field" was a finalist for the Drue Heinz Literature Prize. "Library Journal" said about this book: "Klass's evocation of Brooklyn in the Fifties in wonderfully effective..."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
After a series of novels set in West Bengal (A Perpetual Sunrise), Klass returns to the New York City of her earliest work: this time, the Orthodox Jewish community of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where immigrants Eva and Sol Greenfield have just discovered that their only child, Ben, a soldier in the Korean War, is missing in action. While the forbearing Sol finds some comfort in the rituals of his religion, Eva angrily refuses to accept her son's death and turns to Princess Zoe, a Coney Island fortune-teller, for help in "conjuring" him back to Brooklyn. Written in language as poetically pared-down as the title suggests, Klass's novel depends too often on static, not to say stereotypical, characters. Zoe, the thieving gypsy, is only the most obvious example of this tendency: Sol remains the wise pragmatist throughout, Eva the same stubborn apostate. Rather than portray the intricacies of their inner lives, Klass relies on well-placed but shopworn rhetorical questions ("Was it for this our boys gave their lives?") to convey the parents' grief. She also fails to fully explore the complexities of Eva and Zoe's relationship: we never understand why Zoe, a blatant crook, is so compelling to Eva. What results is a vague and melancholy fairy tale rather than a novel with a vibrant and tangible life of its own. (July) FYI: In addition to four novels for adults, Klass has published 10 YA titles.
Library Journal
Eva Greenfield and her husband Sol, Orthodox Jews living in Brooklyn, became parents late in life, long after they had resigned themselves to childlessness. But their son, Ben, has always been difficult. Impatient to begin the acquisitive American lifestyle, he drops out of high school, enlists in the army, and at age 17 is sent to fight in the Korean War. The Greenfields haven't received a letter from Ben in months, and Sol is certain the boy has been killed. Eva refuses to believe this and in desperation seeks the guidance of Princess Zoe, a gypsy fortune teller who eventually extorts thousands of dollars from her to "guarantee" Ben's safe return. Surprising even herself, Eva conceals the loss from her husband, contacts the police, and participates in the gypsy's arrest. Klass's evocation of Brooklyn in the Fifties is wonderfully effective, but her crooked gypsies and benevolent Irish cops are straight from central casting. For larger fiction collections with an interest in Jewish Brooklyn.Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch., Los Angeles
Kirkus Reviews
This Drue Heinz Literature Prize finalist poignantly details a devout woman's flagrantly unorthodox response to the news that her only son is missing in action.

More novella than novel, not just in length but preoccupation, this perfectly calibrated story is as much a memorable portrait of grief as a touching example of the infinitely varied ways the human heart responds to loss. On May 13, 1951, Mother's Day, Momma Greenfield leaves husband Sol and their Williamsburg apartment and heads for Coney Island. She's a devout Orthodox Jew who's always thought Coney Island a wicked and ungodly place, but now she goes there in search of someone who can tell her the truth. Her only son Ben is missing in action in Korea, and while Sol is resigned to their son's possible death, Momma is not. The misspelled sign GYPSY PRINCESS ZOE: ASTRALAGY READINGS in an encouragingly clean window entices her in, and, inside, the exotically dressed Zoe seems to know exactly why Momma is there. Comforted by Zoe's sympathetic response and amazing clairvoyance, she readily agrees to help the woman bring Ben back. Zoe is a superb con artist, and her stratagems, while easing Momma's pain, are expensive. Over a period of weeks she insists that Momma bring her thousands of dollars, a chicken, and a suit of new clothes so that the necessary rituals can be observed, and Momma, her grief assuaged by her faith in Zoe, and certain that Ben is coming home, happily complies. Meanwhile, Sol is worried by Momma's increasingly bizarre behavior and reactions—she refuses to mourn when they learn that Ben is indeed dead—but can do nothing. Only when Zoe is unmasked as a crook does Momma finally accept the truth that her son is gone and must be appropriately mourned.

Klass (A Perpetual Surprise, 1991, etc.) delivers a moving story, though not quite big enough to fill out a novel's more expansive lineaments.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780930773441
  • Publisher: Black Heron Press
  • Publication date: 5/14/1997
  • Pages: 227
  • Product dimensions: 5.85 (w) x 8.83 (h) x 1.07 (d)

Meet the Author

Sheila Solomon Klass has taught English since 1965 at Manhattan Community College of The City University of New York where she holds a full professorship. She has been a United States Information Service lecturer in Creative Writing at several women's colleges in Calcutta, India and has held lectureships at the University of Connecticut and at the Leonia Library, Leonia, New Jersey. She received a First Prize in Fiction Award from the Charles Goldman Judaica Library and a Citation at a Notable New Jersey Author from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. She has published four novels and a memoir as well as ten novels for young adults.

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