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Odessa, Odessa
Cover of Odessa, Odessa
Odessa, Odessa
A Novel
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Odessa, Odessa follows the families of two sons from a proud lineage of rabbis and cantors in a shtetl near Odessa in western Russia. It begins as Henya, wife of Rabbi Mendel Kolopsky, considers an unexpected pregnancy and the hardships ahead for the children she already has. Soon after the child is born, Cossacks ransack the Kolopskys' home, severely beating Mendel. In the aftermath, he tells Henya that, contrary to his brother Shimshon's belief that socialism is their ticket to escaping the region's brutal anti-Semitic pogroms, he still believes America holds the answer. Henya, meanwhile, understands that any future will be perilous: she now knows their baby daughter, who has slept through this night of melee, is surely deaf. So begins a beautifully told story that unfolds over decades of the 20th century—a story in which two families, joined in tradition and parted during persecution, will remain bound by their fateful decision to leave Odessa.
Odessa, Odessa follows the families of two sons from a proud lineage of rabbis and cantors in a shtetl near Odessa in western Russia. It begins as Henya, wife of Rabbi Mendel Kolopsky, considers an unexpected pregnancy and the hardships ahead for the children she already has. Soon after the child is born, Cossacks ransack the Kolopskys' home, severely beating Mendel. In the aftermath, he tells Henya that, contrary to his brother Shimshon's belief that socialism is their ticket to escaping the region's brutal anti-Semitic pogroms, he still believes America holds the answer. Henya, meanwhile, understands that any future will be perilous: she now knows their baby daughter, who has slept through this night of melee, is surely deaf. So begins a beautifully told story that unfolds over decades of the 20th century—a story in which two families, joined in tradition and parted during persecution, will remain bound by their fateful decision to leave Odessa.
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About the Author-
  • Barbara Artson is a retired psychoanalyst who calls San Francisco her home. She regularly contributes essays and reviews of films and books to professional journals. In addition to a PhD in psychology, she holds BA and MA degrees in English literature, and taught Shakespeare as a graduate student while also completing the unfinished Dickens novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood, years before the musical production on Broadway. Like Dora in Odessa, Odessa, Artson's mother stitched elastic to the waistbands of women's bloomers. Visit her at www.barbaraartsonauthor.com.
Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    A debut novel spins the multigenerational saga of one family's journey from a shtetl in the Eastern European Pale to the streets of 20th-century New York.Rebbe Mendel Kolopsky and his wife, Henya, work hard and fear God, but their life is a hard one. As the tale opens, Henya discovers she's pregnant at a relatively advanced age. Months later, she fears for the life of her new daughter, Marya, born deaf, and for her six other children. The family's troubles escalate rapidly when another pogrom sweeps through Odessa--hordes of Cossacks murder and rape many of Mendel and Henya's neighbors (Artson effectively describes "the screams of women, the menace of barking dogs"). Mendel is beaten within an inch of his life. As the family finally resolves to brave the journey to America, and to attempt a new life in a strange land, readers also learn the story of Mendel's brother Shimshon (later, in the U.S., Samson). Disowned by his father, Shimshon is a revolutionary who asks Mendel: "Where was your God each time the Cossacks came to call?" Years later, Mendel's granddaughter discovers Samson's journal and readers are given an even fuller picture of a single family's captivating multigenerational tale, from Odessa to Brighton Beach ("A nice place to live, enough food, no Cossacks knocking down the door") to a family reunion in Tel Aviv, where Henya's daughter learns the extent of another people's oppression. Century-spanning books are notorious for perplexing readers; Artson has taken wise steps to forestall such confusion with a long list of character names and identities preceding the text and an informative addendum. Even so, keeping track of who's thinking what can be tricky when the point of view shifts from one paragraph to the next. That said, the vivid events and rich details of the intricate story are compelling and important--immigrants like the Kolopskys helped make America into the land readers recognize today (Israel, too). Readers should understand more of their world at the end of this engrossing novel than they did when they began it.A complex but rewarding epic of family ties, fading memories, and immigrants who--through hard work and luck--better the lives of their progeny.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. (Online Review)

  • Booklist

    Starred review from August 1, 2018
    Artson's sweeping multigenerational saga follows the lives of one family and their descendants as they journey from the shtetls of Russia to new lives in America and beyond. Mendel Kolopsky, his wife, Henya, and their seven children endure poverty, hunger, cramped living conditions, Russian winters, and the Cossacks. When they find the courage to immigrate to America, Mendel and two sons travel first, followed by Henya and the other children a year later. The Kolopskys settle first in a Lower East Side tenement and finally in a home in the suburbs, while another branch of the family, led by Mendel's brother Shimshon, settles in Israel. When Mendel's granddaughter discovers Shimshon's long-buried journals, she begins to piece together the full story of the Kolopsky family, eventually traveling to Tel Aviv to meet her relatives. In her debut, Artson skillfully and meticulously brings a story of the American experience to life. Rich with detail and alive with a full cast of characters, this is a beautifully crafted examination of immigration and the many journeys that follow it. (Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2018, American Library Association.)

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A Novel
Barbara Artson
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