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A Foreward Reviews Indie Fab 2014 Finalist for Book of the Year
A. L. A. Sophie Brody Award 2014 nominee
Early in The Sweetness , an inquisitive young girl asks her grandmother why she is carrying nothing but a jug of sliced lemons and water when they are forced by the Germans to evacuate their ghetto. "Something sour to remind me of the sweetness," she tells her, setting the theme for what they must remember to survive. Set during World War II, the novel is the parallel tale of two Jewish girls, cousins, living on separate continents, whose strikingly different lives ultimately converge.
Brooklyn-born Mira Kane is the eighteen-year-old daughter of a well-to-do manufacturer of women’s knitwear in New York. Her cousin, eight-year-old Rosha Kaninsky, is the lone survivor of a family in Vilna exterminated by the invading Nazis. But unbeknownst to her American relatives, Rosha did not perish. Desperate to save his only child during a round-up of their ghetto, her father thrusts her into the arms of a Polish Catholic candle maker, who then hides her in a root cellar─putting her own family at risk. The headstrong and talented Mira, who dreams of escaping Brooklyn for a career as a fashion designer, finds her ambitions abruptly thwarted when, traumatized at the fate of his European relatives, her father becomes intent on safeguarding his loved ones from threats of a brutal world, and all the family must challenge his unuttered but injurious survivor guilt. Though the American Kanes endure the experience of the Jews who got out, they reveal how even in the safety of our lives, we are profoundly affected by the dire circumstances of others.
|Publisher:||She Writes Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.60(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
After two decades as a scriptwriter and video/film producer for Fortune 500 companies, Sande Boritz Berger returned to writing fiction and non-fiction full time. For years she attended The Writer’s Voice in NYC and writing conferences at Stony Brook Southampton College, where she once got lost driving Joyce Carol Oates to a dinner in her honor. Ms. Berger’s stories and essays appear in a multitude of publications, including Every Woman Has a Story (Warner Books), Ophelia's Mom (Crown) and Aunties: Thirty-Five Writers Celebrate Their Other Mother (Ballantine). Her fiction and poetry have appeared in the Southampton Review, Confrontation Literary Review, Tri-Quarterly Magazine, Epiphany, and other publications. She received first place in the Winthrop B. Palmer Poetry awards at Long Island University, and her short story from which this novel evolved, “The Sweetness,” received a fiction prize from Moment Magazine. The Sweetness was a semi-finalist in Amazon's annual Breakthrough Novel Awards. Ms. Berger has taught creative writing as a volunteer at NYU's Medical Center Rusk Institute's pediatric division and recently completed an MFA in Writing and Literature at Stony Brook Southampton College. In 2010 she received the college’s Deborah Hecht Memorial prize for fiction.
What People are Saying About This
“Sande Boritz Berger has created a complete, rich novel about survivor guilt and innocence. The guilt is readily understood. The innocence is an original thought. How are people who survived the Nazis supposed to know how to behave in the face of unique evil? The Kanes (Kaninskys) endured the general experience of Jews who got out. But within that experience, they are also a family of complicated individuals, who pursue differentiated goals. It is this—their individuality, not unlike that of the Anne Frank family—that gives Ms. Berger’s novel its power as a work of art.”
—Roger Rosenblatt, author of The Boy Detective
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Sande Boritz Berger delivers a poignant account of the horrors and devastation resulting from the 1941 German invasion of the Vilna (Vilnius) Ghetto in her debut novel, The Sweetness. It is 1941 in Vilna (Vilnius) Lithuania and 'evil' is a word that does not come close to describing what is happening to an entire population of innocents. The Germans are closing in with their mission to destroy the course and lives of an entire civilization. It is here where we meet eight-year-old Rosha. Perched by the curtains in her family’s living room, Rosha does not understand why her Bubbe insists she move away from the window for fear 'they might see you.' It is Friday night and Mordecai, Rosha’s Poppa, is late. Rosha does not understand why Mama and Bubbe are upset. She thinks about the random conversations among the adults-whispers between the butcher and his patrons, the '...dry clacking sounds of people’s tongues. When they whisper, their heads shake and their smiling eyes turn dark. All of this makes me think I am not paying good enough attention...' It is nearly sundown. Mama worries and wonders if Mordecai forgot what day it was and the necessity for him to be home now. In the same lifetime and thousands of miles away in Brooklyn, New York, Rosha has a cousin, Mira Kane. Poppa’s brother and sisters left Vilna behind to make their new life in America. Mordecai was to join his brother Charles (and his wife, Ina), but he wasn’t ready to go with them and leave his Vilna roots quite yet. Like many immigrants who fled to America in the ‘40s, Charles was one of the fortunate survivors. His hard work and persistence paid off. He owned a successful business in the garment district—his signature production, sweaters. His daughter Mira has bigger dreams than a life of factory work in her father’s business. Living a life of privilege gained her entry into the prestigious designer school and her future was pointed toward Hollywood. Her design talents would pave the way. Unbeknownst to any of the Kane family members, the 1941 Nazi invasion of Vilna would be the catalyst to drastically change the course of each life of every Kane family member. Ms. Berger has captured the essence of conflict between Charles Kane’s survivor’s guilt and Rosha’s innocence of youth as she compares the circumstances between one family’s choice to stay as the other flees. While the tone is not maudlin, Berger’s voice resonates across the pages with a deep and soulful pain as she depicts the 1941 Nazi invasion of the Vilna Ghetto. It is clear she did her research given she infused historical information and tied her story line to actual events with the backdrop of an epically tragic time in history. Berger has created wonderful flow and rich character development. Nonetheless, I found it difficult to read at times because The Sweetness is yet another reminder of the absolute evil humankind is capable of delivering. However, it is because of this very sentiment I give Ms. Berger tremendous props for taking on such a topic and her ability to deliver it with tenderness. Without spelling it out, she left this reader with the thought: "We must never forget..." Congratulations Ms. Berger; truly a beautiful story. Quill says: There is bitter sweetness in The Sweetness, but the prospect of hope balances the flavor of comfort this story delivers.
Loved this book! Is there a sequel? The Sweetness provides some insight into my own family’s past. My relatives did not speak of their past when I was a child. Reading this book and others like this help me somewhat to understand their past.
I loved this book! I couldn't put it down - read it in a few hours one afternoon. With a good book (and this is a really good book) I want to know the ending, must know how the characters end up but then I am always so sorry to let them go when the book is done - and this was no exception. As a history major, I have always loved to spice up my non-fiction reading with good historical fiction books and The Sweetness did not disappoint. The characters were finely drawn giving me a clear picture of who they were and what they were going through during those difficult times. We've all read stories of heroic non-Jewish families who stepped up and helped to hide Jewish people so I loved the characterization of the Polish Catholic woman who puts her own family at risk to help Mira. I highly recommend this book - there is no better recommendation than to simply say, "I couldn't put the book down, and when finished, was sorry I had rushed rather than savoring it."
The book was alright. The storyline never seemed to pull itself together, so felt disappointed at the end.