June 1, 2012
Review by Andrea Kempf
Winner of the 2012 Fabri Literary Prize, this semiautobiographical family saga chronicles three generations of strong women, beginning with sisters Ruth and Rivka, who escape the pogroms of Russia for Palestine as World War I ends. Sympathy for oppressed Arabs draws the teenage Rivka into the Communist Party until she’s arrested then leaves for France. Simultaneously, Ruth emigrates to the United States. As the novel unfolds, readers follow the sisters’ experiences during World War II and the Holocaust. Ruth’s daughter Rina grows up to be an artist immersed in the left-wing counterculture in 1960s New York. Rina’s own daughter, Miriam, moves to Arizona, where she becomes involved with the sanctuary movement helping Salvadoran refugees.
VERDICT: Each generation here is motivated by a sense of righteous indignation concerning the politically oppressed. It is as if some supernatural power guides them into political action. Indeed, the author suggests that this family continues to be motivated by spirits from past lives. Like Julia Alvarez’s In the Time of the Butterflies and Doris Lessing’s Martha Quest novels, this story about fighting the injustices of the 20th century will engage readers of politically charged fiction.
–Andrea Kempf, formerly at Johnson City Community College Library, Overland Park, KS
Wachspress, Amy. Memories from Cherry Harvest. Soft Skull. Jun. 2012. c.356p. ISBN 9781593764401. pap. $15.95. F