Cover image for The slow way back : a novel
The slow way back : a novel
Goldman, Judy.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Morrow, [1999]

Physical Description:
274 pages ; 25 cm
Geographic Term:
Format :


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X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Upon finding her mother's wedding dress, ten-year-old Thea was sure she had discovered a treasure. Trying the gown on, she easily envisioned the beautiful bride her mother must have been. But when her mother discovered her with the dress, the sight unleashed a shattering rage--the sting of her slap across Thea's face lasted a lifetime. Her mother's irrational anger, coupled with Thea's already strong feelings of disconnection with her father & only sister Mickey, caused Thea to feel like an outsider in her own family. Married to a non-Jewish man, unable to have children, &, her parents now dead, Thea acquires eight letters by her grandmother to her grandmother's sister written in Yiddish in the 1930s--just before & after Thea's parents' wedding. The cache of letters promises to answer some of Thea's life-long questions, but Mickey urges her not to have the letters translated. Trusting her own instincts, Thea has the letters deciphered & indeed begins to unravel the secrets of her own family. In the end, Thea faces sadness in her life, as well as the multitude of questions raised by these letters--questions about marriage, sisters, & what it means to belong.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Evolved from personal essays Goldman delivered as an NPR commentator, this poignant debut novel plumbs the rift created by parental favoritism in a Southern Jewish family plagued by buried secrets and resentments. The heroine, Charlotte, N.C., radio therapist Thea McKee, recalls trying on her mother's wedding dress at the age of 10Äand her usually adoring mother's violent reaction. The incident leaves questions in Thea's mind that deepen as she matures. She wonders why her father favors her sister, Mickey, why her mother has bouts of depression. When she is in her 50s, a packet of her grandmother's letters come into Thea's hands. They open doors to the past, reminding her of her Jewish roots (almost forgotten in an interfaith marriage) and her Southern heritage (almost invisible in the midst of modern city life). Answers come slowly: first Thea must find someone to translate the letters, written by her grandmother in Yiddish in the 1930s, when Grandma Bella lived in Denmark, S.C., and sent to her sister in Pennsylvania. Even then, the letters are confusing, and she must seek explanations from her chatty yet uninformative Aunt Florence. With an ear for rhythm and an eye for imagery, Goldman artfully presents Grandma Bella's simple, stilted prose, typical of a woman of her generation and immigrant background. Bella's correspondence conveys quotidian details, but a postscript to one of them holds a clue to a traumatic eventÄand the answers to Thea's questions. Convincing detailsÄrecipes, clothing, endearments, jealousiesÄdistinguish three generations of sisters as old wounds are reopened, intimacies shared and prejudices combated. Despite some first-novel pitfalls (easily guessed mysteries, overly emotional epiphanies), Goldman's vivid sensory descriptions and psychological honestyÄespecially sharp when Thea remembers the last illnesses of her parentsÄmark her as a touching storyteller and an astute observer of human nature. Agent, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh. Author tour. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In this debut novel of three generations of a Southern Jewish family, Thea grows up as an outsider. Her mother is unstable, and her sister, Mickey, has strong ties to her father and to the Jewish faith, which Thea does not share. As if peeling an onion, Thea is able successively to uncover layers of truths about her family that have been long buried. She first realizes that there are family secrets when she is ten years old and discovers her mother's wedding dress. When she dons the full bridal regalia, her mother greets her not with surprise and delight but a slap across the face. Married to a non-Jew, Thea feels her life is somewhat in order until she receives a pile of letters from her aunt written in Yiddish by her grandmother to her sister in the 1930s, just a few days after Thea's parents' wedding. Goldman successfully weaves bits of the grandparents' and parents' lives into an account of Thea's current relations with her husband, sister, and aunt. More than a revealing family saga (with an important revelation left for the end), this book gives definition to early Southern Jewish small-town life. Recommended for all libraries.ÄMolly Abramowitz, Silver Spring, MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.