BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Review of "The Little Bride" by Anna Solomon

Publisher: Riverhead Trade

Release Date: September 6, 2011

Buying Info: Amazon     The Book Depository

Book Blurb (from ):

When 16-year-old Minna Losk journeys from Odessa to America as a mail-order bride, she dreams of a young, wealthy husband, a handsome townhouse, and freedom from physical labor and pogroms. But her husband Max turns out to be twice her age, rigidly Orthodox, and living in a one-room sod hut in South Dakota with his two teenage sons. The country is desolate, the work treacherous. Most troubling, Minna finds herself increasingly attracted to her older stepson. As a brutal winter closes in, the family's limits are tested, and Minna, drawing on strengths she barely knows she has, is forced to confront her despair, as well as her desire.

My Thoughts:

I wanted to like this book. The premise was interesting - a young Jewish girl emigrates to the US as a mail order bride and what she finds isn't what she expected. As if emigrating to another country with a different culture and language aren't challenging enough, she's off to marry a man she's never met and basically knows nothing about. There were so many possibilities here that I was sure I'd like the book. But, although Solomon is an evocative writer, especially with description, the book fell flat for me. I had a hard time finishing it, I didn’t really enjoy reading it. 

It's a well written book, with delineated characters, evocative descriptions and enough historical detail to add depth and atmosphere without drowning you in it. But, I was never able to connect with Minna. She is walled off emotionally for much of the book, and our lives are so different that there were few commonalities. As a result, with no connection of any kind, much of the time I simply didn't care what happened.Additionally, Solomon's writing could be very dry, it ranged from almost lyrical to dry as dust. 

"The Little Bride" is in some respects a coming-of-age book. Minna, despite a hard life, is, at times, not as mature as you might expect of a girl her age, in her circumstances; at other times, she seems mature, if not wise, beyond her years. We see her grow, change and mature over the novel.

The very first chapter was promising as we see Minna undergo her exam to be approved as a bride for the service that she signed up for. There's a physical exam and some mental tests and we see, and to a lesser extent, feel her anxiety, her discomfort and her shame while she is stripped, poked, prodded and treated as lesser. The disconnect that we see between Minna and what's happening made sense under the circumstances but that disconnect continues all through the book. It may be that Solomon was trying to show us her isolation and alienation with this technique, but in my case, it left me unable to connect with or care about Minna. I don't think I'm adequately explaining why it didn't work for me, I don't seem to be able to accurately put it into words. 

A few random samples of Solomon's descriptions:

The horse and mule, hitched together, formed a maimed, listing beast.
 She tried not to be annoyed that the talk of an attack had passed, too; that the glitter in the streets wasn't broken glass but the fog's residue, lit with sun; that she had not been anointed a refugee.
 But before she could find God, or even the sky, her eyes were drawn to an open window, where, next to a tall red geranium, a thick, strong arm was waving.

In the end, this was a decently written story
, and Solomon has a gift for description, but it was also dry and often emotionless.

I received this paperback from the publisher for review.


  1. You're right, this book has such an interesting premise. It's a shame it didn't really live up to your expectations.

  2. Someone else may like it, it's gotten good reviews elsewhere, but it didn't work for me.


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