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Shtetls (small towns with large Jewish populations) are popularly remembered as places where the Jews who lived there were considered pious, powerless, and poor and where the pace of life was set by the Sabbath, festivals, and holy days. Petrovsky-Shtern (Jewish Studies, Northwestern Univ.; Lenin's Jewish Question) argues that this fallacy is drawn from the era of the shtetl's decline in the late 19th and early 20th centuries after the tsarist government, administratively responsible for the towns, destroyed the local economy. Rather than a place of poverty and weak industry, the shtetl, during its heyday from roughly 1790 to 1840, was a dynamic engine of economic life. Jews living there dominated liquor manufacturing and made up the majority of innkeepers and guild merchants. Petrovsky-Shtern marshals an impressive array of archival and literary sources to reconstruct the licit and illicit economy of the towns, the family life of the residents, and their patterns of consumption—including alcohol and book purchases. VERDICT General readers may find the first chapter about legal definitions somewhat slow going. Past that point, however, the vibrancy of shtetl life in the days before it was destroyed by the Russian state comes through vividly. This book should appeal to anyone interested in Jewish or Eastern European history.—Frederic Krome, Univ. of Cincinnati Clermont Coll.