Modern Girls: A Novel. Jennifer S. Brown. Penguin Group (USA). April 2016. 384 pp. ISBN#: 9780451477125.
Life for woman of the Lower East Side, especially women of Russian Jewish descent, was very hard. A pregnancy was a source of joy as Rose, already a mother of three boys and a girl, knows and her husband Ben shares that joy. But now Rose finds she is again with child and doesn’t know if she has the physical, mental or emotional strength to withstand another pregnancy and birth. Her daughter, Dottie, has found a good job and even been promoted as she has a gift with numbers. Add to that Dottie is really a second mother to her three brothers, giving them her undivided, devoted attention at all times. Now, one mistake puts Dottie into a panic, for she finds she is pregnant as well. Mother and daughter keep their secret for a very long time.
Rose has big dreams for Dottie and has been planning for years. Dottie’s current boyfriend, Abe Rabinowitz, is planning on their marriage but not just yet. He wants financial security before he even asks for Dottie’s hand and Dottie is plotting to seduce him to make him marry her before the disgraceful secret is out, a revelation that would absolutely ruin her future in the judgmental times of 1935. Or is her future with the father, Willie Klein, known as irresponsible and a lady’s man wherever he can ensnare an admiring female?
The remainder of this tale is a tribute to love and familial support, despite the unexpected turns of events. Jennifer S. Brown portrays Dottie as the model “American Woman,” with her talents and foibles. This woman is not only gifted in the external world but finds within herself reserves of strength and purpose that the reader must admire, respect beyond the mistakes and vicissitudes of daily life that were ever-present in this particular time period in American history.
Choices are difficult enough to handle in the year 2016, but multiply that by hundreds to fully appreciate the decisions made by Rose and Dottie. The cost and consequences are the essence of this realistic novel that Jennifer Brown has crafted that never fails to captivate the reader on every page!
Fine, fine historical novel with several touches of troubled and sweet romance! A poignant tribute to the quest for equality!
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