Official Review: Tante Minnie by Marilyn Parker

Please use this forum to discuss historical fiction books. Common definitions define historical fiction as novels written at least 25-50 years after the book's setting.
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Official Review: Tante Minnie by Marilyn Parker

Post by FictionLover » 18 Oct 2018, 06:09

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Tante Minnie" by Marilyn Parker.]
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4 out of 4 stars
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A young woman harbors a dark secret. A young man is hounded for his beliefs. They leave their homeland and meet as indentured labor in the fields of the new world. The story of how they come together and make a life for themselves far from their families and homes is recounted in Tante Minnie.

Based on the family history of the author, Marilyn Parker’s generational novel tells the story of her great-aunt Michla Bromoff and her life as an unwilling immigrant from Russia. Fear and desperation cause her to leave the family she loves to work in the potato fields of Suffolk County, New York. There she meets Zelig Frumkin, the man who will be her husband. Though she longs for a home and family, her secret threatens her marriage and affects her life and happiness. Tante Minnie details how Michla, whose name is changed to Minnie at Ellis Island, rises above her fear and loneliness to make a life with Zelig and become the backbone of her family.

Tante Minnie is a look at the struggles and triumphs of two Jewish immigrants. Beginning in the late 1800s, the book follows Minnie until her death in 1952. The novel is written using a narrator’s voice, thereby allowing the reader access to the thoughts of almost every character mentioned. While this gives you a deeper understanding of each person’s motivations and beliefs, at times it is awkward. I found it especially distressing during the early phase of Minnie and Zelig’s marriage, as their intimacy problems are hashed over from both points of view. I was surprised to read detailed descriptions of their sexual activity and certainly wasn't interested in a double dose of it.

The author did an admirable job of creating a clear rendering of farm life and then later of city life. Minnie and Zelig move to the Brownsville section of Brooklyn and become members of the Jewish community. The book is heavily laden with Jewish customs and Yiddish phrases. Mrs. Parker has provided a glossary at the back of the book which is helpful. The dialog is written to verbalize their Yiddish accents, and it is obvious that the author wished to accurately reflect the way her family spoke English. Although I grew up on Long Island and knew people who spoke with this type of accent, there were times that I found it cumbersome sounding out a sentence full of phonetic pronunciations.

I enjoyed the historical aspect of this book and appreciated how Minnie was portrayed as a strong and sometimes demanding woman. Mrs. Parker includes historical tidbits such as the politics of the time, the Holocaust, and even the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, which killed many immigrant workers in New York City. But the primary focus of the book is on Minnie and Zelig and their relationship and work life. Without giving spoilers, I will say that both are flawed and sometimes selfish characters. Despite their faults, I felt quite sympathetic toward them and was saddened by their attitudes and actions toward one another. By the end of the book, they resolve their issues to some degree.

I would happily recommend this book to those interested in historical fiction, particularly those interested in the history of the Jewish experience in New York. At times I felt this read like a romance, so I think lovers of that genre might want to give it a look. I would not recommend this book to those who are put off by scenes of frank and uncensored sexual activity. I did not notice one grammatical or typographic error and found the book well written and enjoyable. I rate Tante Minnie a 4 out of 4 stars.

******
Tante Minnie
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Post by JHuschle519 » 18 Oct 2018, 23:22

This is a very well written review. I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction, but this book definitely sounds interesting for those who like the genre. Interestingly enough, I grew up near some of the places you mention in your review, so that makes it interesting to me to some degree.

The fact that you felt sympathy for the characters tells me that the author writes very well. I've read plenty of books where sad things happen, and yet I feel nothing because it is poorly written. Again, great review.

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Post by HollandBlue » 19 Oct 2018, 06:47

Interesting review! I'm wondering what Minnie's secret is, I guess I'll just have to read the book to find out. I remember hearing about that fire in NYC a while back. I like historical fiction, so I'll probably check out this book since it seems quite detailed.
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Post by Debjani Ghosh » 19 Oct 2018, 07:21

Great review! The fact that you were able to empathize with the characters despite their flaws, points towards good character development. I am adding this to my TR list.

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Post by kandscreeley » 19 Oct 2018, 10:04

You had me interested as this is exactly the type of historical fiction I enjoy - learning about people's lives and especially Jews at that time. However, the uncensored sexual content is off-putting for me. Therefore, I'll probably avoid this one, but I'm glad that you were able to enjoy it. Thanks anyway.
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Post by Bianka Walter » 19 Oct 2018, 10:30

I agree - writing in the accent that the voice is heard in does make reading it that much harder. But if that's the only qualm you have about this book, I think it sounds amazing!
Great review :)
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Post by FictionLover » 19 Oct 2018, 18:37

JHuschle519 wrote: ↑
18 Oct 2018, 23:22
This is a very well written review. I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction, but this book definitely sounds interesting for those who like the genre. Interestingly enough, I grew up near some of the places you mention in your review, so that makes it interesting to me to some degree.

The fact that you felt sympathy for the characters tells me that the author writes very well. I've read plenty of books where sad things happen, and yet I feel nothing because it is poorly written. Again, great review.
Thank you for your comments.

Did you grow up around NY? When I read the book description it mentioned Suffolk County and that piqued my interest.

I did feel sympathetic toward them, and I think you are right about good writing making an emotional connection.
"I love reading another reader’s list of favorites. Even when I find I do not share their tastes or predilections, I am provoked to compare, contrast, and contradict. It is a most healthy exercise, and one altogether fruitful." T.S. Eliot

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Post by FictionLover » 19 Oct 2018, 18:40

Bianka Walter wrote: ↑
19 Oct 2018, 10:30
I agree - writing in the accent that the voice is heard in does make reading it that much harder. But if that's the only qualm you have about this book, I think it sounds amazing!
Great review :)
It actually was fun, because I knew people who spoke like that. But I feel you only need a touch of an accent. Better said, I think one or two words per sentence are enough, after that it gets tedious. But not all of the dialog was like that. And it was not hard to understand at any rate.

Thanks for your comment.
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Post by FictionLover » 19 Oct 2018, 18:42

BookReader+6 wrote: ↑
19 Oct 2018, 06:47
Interesting review! I'm wondering what Minnie's secret is, I guess I'll just have to read the book to find out. I remember hearing about that fire in NYC a while back. I like historical fiction, so I'll probably check out this book since it seems quite detailed.
Yes, you have to read to know the secret.

If you like historical fiction, you will probably like this.

Thanks for your comments.
"I love reading another reader’s list of favorites. Even when I find I do not share their tastes or predilections, I am provoked to compare, contrast, and contradict. It is a most healthy exercise, and one altogether fruitful." T.S. Eliot

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Post by FictionLover » 19 Oct 2018, 18:46

kandscreeley wrote: ↑
19 Oct 2018, 10:04
You had me interested as this is exactly the type of historical fiction I enjoy - learning about people's lives and especially Jews at that time. However, the uncensored sexual content is off-putting for me. Therefore, I'll probably avoid this one, but I'm glad that you were able to enjoy it. Thanks anyway.
I'm not the biggest fan of sexual content either, but I think I was more surprised by it than anything. In my opinion it wasn't necessary to express the problem they were having which was more related to intimacy than sexuality. I don't read romance or erotica, so it was something I do not normally come across. In context, it was a small part of the book.

Thanks for your comments.
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Post by FictionLover » 19 Oct 2018, 18:48

Debjani Ghosh wrote: ↑
19 Oct 2018, 07:21
Great review! The fact that you were able to empathize with the characters despite their flaws, points towards good character development. I am adding this to my TR list.
Thanks for your comment. I hope you enjoy it.
"I love reading another reader’s list of favorites. Even when I find I do not share their tastes or predilections, I am provoked to compare, contrast, and contradict. It is a most healthy exercise, and one altogether fruitful." T.S. Eliot

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Post by JHuschle519 » 19 Oct 2018, 19:41

FictionLover wrote: ↑
19 Oct 2018, 18:37
JHuschle519 wrote: ↑
18 Oct 2018, 23:22
This is a very well written review. I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction, but this book definitely sounds interesting for those who like the genre. Interestingly enough, I grew up near some of the places you mention in your review, so that makes it interesting to me to some degree.

The fact that you felt sympathy for the characters tells me that the author writes very well. I've read plenty of books where sad things happen, and yet I feel nothing because it is poorly written. Again, great review.
Thank you for your comments.

Did you grow up around NY? When I read the book description it mentioned Suffolk County and that piqued my interest.

I did feel sympathetic toward them, and I think you are right about good writing making an emotional connection.
Yes, I grew up about 2 hours away from Suffolk county.

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Post by FictionLover » 19 Oct 2018, 20:35

JHuschle519 wrote: ↑
19 Oct 2018, 19:41
FictionLover wrote: ↑
19 Oct 2018, 18:37
JHuschle519 wrote: ↑
18 Oct 2018, 23:22
This is a very well written review. I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction, but this book definitely sounds interesting for those who like the genre. Interestingly enough, I grew up near some of the places you mention in your review, so that makes it interesting to me to some degree.

The fact that you felt sympathy for the characters tells me that the author writes very well. I've read plenty of books where sad things happen, and yet I feel nothing because it is poorly written. Again, great review.
Thank you for your comments.

Did you grow up around NY? When I read the book description it mentioned Suffolk County and that piqued my interest.

I did feel sympathetic toward them, and I think you are right about good writing making an emotional connection.
Yes, I grew up about 2 hours away from Suffolk county.
I am from Nassau and lived in Suffolk County for a few years. My best friend and my sister now live in Suffolk and I was there over the summer. I live outside Atlanta now.
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Post by Julie Green » 20 Oct 2018, 08:05

I very much enjoyed your review and this sounds like a really interesting book. I love historical fiction, particularly those which include a dose of actual events.
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Post by gen_g » 21 Oct 2018, 04:19

This sounds like a deep read, but one that is worth it. Thanks for the review!

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