A wise, unsentimental memoir.... It’s hard to tell why Mr. Bernstein’s writings never blossomed into a career, or how he feels about this. He tells his tale without rhetorical fuss or disappointment, allowing even his father a moment of humanity, at Ada’s funeral. The tyrant has outlasted his victim, and now he is alone, the one thing he’d never wanted to be.
New York Times
Beneath the poignant descriptions of places and times past, beneath the rising and falling patterns of these characters’ lives, we hear what Wordsworth called "the still sad music of humanity."
Washington Post Book World
Packed with carefully crafted dialogue and descriptions that transport us, with keen verisimilitude, from working-class England to Depression-era Chicago.... Visceral, honest writing [makes] Bernstein’s memoir impossible to put down.
Jewish News Weekly
(Starred review.) Having mined his English upbringing in The Invisible Wall, Bernstein resumes a nine-decade reckoning in this gently observed memoir of a Jewish immigrant family riven from within. Eager to escape English mill town life, his mother promises her brood a better life in America-a dream providentially fulfilled with steamship tickets. But even after reuniting with family in Chicago, his father's "bloody 'ell" bellows and monstrous rage continue to smite. The author takes in his new surroundings with a keen adolescent eye, observing "back porches all piled on top of one another like egg crates," belying celluloid America—as do his ragamuffin elders, with his grandfather reduced to begging in secret. At school he confounds Midwestern types with his Lancashire accent, comically mistaken for an Egyptian named "Arry." Engulfed in the Roaring '20s, the Bernsteins revel in the luxuries of telephones and parlor rooms, only to feel the wallop of the Depression as the decade wanes. Uprooted to New York, Bernstein ekes out a living and falls quietly, desperately in love, achieving a joyful 67-year marriage. Coming on the heels of his first book, this one will delight readers eager for more of Bernstein's distinctive voice and gift for character.
This coherent account of Bernstein’s life is a fascinating and well-written book.—George Cohen
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