Wednesday, June 16, 2010

IF I TOLD YOU ONCE by Judy Budnitz

The somewhat fanciful nature of the violent events in this book serves to soften the blows. It's a story of four generations of women, starting with Ilana. She grows up in an unnamed country (eastern European, according to the book jacket) and emigrates to the U.S. before WWII. Her life reads like a series of dark fairy tales. Her daughter Sashie discounts her mother's stories as total fabrications, reaching her own erroneous conclusions about her mother's history. Given how Sashie chooses her husband and the circumstances of his disappearance, I don't see how she could doubt the occurrences of her mother's life; they're all equally absurd. Sashie's daughter Mara is unbalanced, especially in her attachment to her brother Jonathan. Who wouldn't live in a fantasy world with her lineage? Finally, there's Jonathan's illegitimate daughter Naomi, whose mother dies from burn injuries. Naomi, raised by the other 3 women, comes full circle by connecting mainly with her great-grandmother Ilana. The author quickly disposes of husbands, sons, and brothers, who are secondary characters at best but constant objects of adoration by the women.

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