“Where is Walenska Street, anyway?” was my question.
“Mama, come quick! See what Esther is doing!”
Now that Papa is dead, Mama relies very heavily on Leah. Leah loves the responsibility, but sometimes it can be difficult to control her two younger sisters, Esther and Rose. Especially Esther; she can be so mischievous sometimes.
Another of Leah’s duties is to reply to the letters they receive from their cousins in America. Leah wonders if she will leave her home on Walenska Street and travel to The States to meet her cousins. America is a far way off from Russia, but who can know?
In the meantime, pogroms are beginning again in Leah’s gentle city. Will her family be spared any of their possessions? And will they be forced to take action – perhaps move to America?
Probably the most troubling incident of the story occurs when the butcher’s wife comes to visit Mama. She is a nosy, gossipy woman who Leah thinks looks like one of her husband’s chickens. She fusses at Leah when she opens an umbrella in the house, claiming it will bring bad luck to their family. Mama offers some resistance to the idea, but in the end, to satisfy her visitor, tells Leah to close the umbrella. She does so, but whispers “fat cow” (meaning the butcher’s wife) under her breath. The woman hears her, and in shame and fear, Leah runs away and gets lost in an orchard. She is afraid – the trees look scary – and she thinks that maybe this is the bad luck that the butcher’s wife had warned her against. In the end she returns home and her mother spanks her. I was glad that it was resolved in that way (with punishment being administered).
Esther disobeys her mother and wears a locket which she had told the children not to wear. However, this saves the locket from being stolen, and Mama tells Esther that “for once I am glad you did not listen to your mama.” [pg. 66] A very brief scene, but an annoying one. I can’t stand it when children save the day through disobedience…
On one occasion, Esther very selfishly eats all of the candy which was purchased to be shared amongst the three sisters. She Is not reproved and does not apologize.
Conclusion. A sweet story about siblings working together and a family struggling through difficult times.
Review © 2012 Laura Verret