Ooligan Press, 2012, 305 pp.
In this debut novel, fifteen-year-old Miriam Josefsohn grapples with suffrage, her brother’s death, a traditional father, and a family heirloom with special powers in 1912 Portland, Oregon.
The good things
- Well researched — A seasoned nonfiction writer, Feldman knows her way around archives. Her meticulous research serves her well.
- Family heirloom — The prayer shawl with its magical blue thread is an endowed object if ever there was one
- Fantastical elements — I was intrigued by Serakh and all she represented. I liked the time travel and found more energy in those sequences than in the “current” story.
- Reconnection to Judaism — As assimilated Jews, members of the Julius Josefsohn family do not observe many traditions or practices. Serakh and the prayer shawl’s blue thread provide the reconnection for Miriam.
- Typography focus – Feldman did an outstanding job here of incorporating typography as a frame of reference for Miriam’s thoughts and of including the technical aspects without detracting from the overall story.
- Ambition — Miriam has ambition despite her circumstances. In the same vein, Feldman’s first novel is also ambitious.
- Author’s Note — In this note, Feldman describes the catalysts for her novel.
The not-so-good things
- Back in time — I have nothing against time travel, but I often got lost in the logistics once Miriam and Serakh went back to biblical time.
- The ending — I wanted Miriam to somehow work things out with her father and that would have given both the opportunity for character growth/transformation
- Kitchen sink syndrome — There was a lot here. Death in the family. Relationship issues with parents. Conflict on broader scale with women’s right to vote. Endowed object with time travel. Conflict in biblical times exacerbated by the heroine. Perhaps too much going on at the expense of deeper characterization.
3.7 out of 5.0