Here Comes Mrs. Kugelman by - Minka Pradelski (translated by Philip Boehm) 240 pages
When feisty young Tsippy Silberberg of the curious eating habits receives word from Tel Aviv that a distant aunt has left her a mysterious inheritance—an incomplete fish service in a battered brown suitcase—she decides to break her rigid routine and go collect it in person. But before she is even able to settle into her hotel room, an odd old woman bangs on her door and invites herself in. Her name is Bella Kugelman, and she is determined to talk.
And talk she does, with wondrous effect. Soon the room is filled with people—residents of the Polish town of Bedzin before the war, who now live on, if only in Mrs. Kugelman’s stories. Flirtatious girls and sly shopkeepers, rich industrialists and a family so poor that their necks are bent over from looking for coins—in tale after tale, a town magically returns to life, even as its grim future looms darkly. And under the thrall of Mrs. Kugelman’s words, Tsippy finally pieces together her aunt’s strange bequest, as well as her own place in the story unfolding before her.
My Review: 4 stars
This book riveted me from the start as I loved the very odd and humorous protagonist Tsippy. With her penchant for eating frozen vegetables and her “still single” status, she is quite intriguing. Yet her story progresses once she meets the formidable Mrs. Kugelman and that’s when this book becomes like a bedtime story as Mrs. Kugelman remembers, shares and releases her pre-war memories like a warm comforter. Often times speaking metaphorically and with some mysticism, and other times bluntly stating the facts, her story helps Tsippy come to terms of who she is and where she came from. I do believe that some people survived the holocaust to share their stories, traditions, memories, families, cousins, cousins of cousins to help reconnect the world and people who are lost. This book is a welcome addition to my bookshelf.
Quotes I liked:
- “The voices inside the cab grow louder as the two women tell their life stories: it’s amazing how easy it is for women here to pour their hearts out, even to people they’ve never met.”
- “...viewed begging as a legitimate occupation, a profession with its own codes and customs, its own sense of pride and honor. And it’s true, the schnorrers moved in organized groups, agreeing in advance which group would beg where, and one group never got in the way of another.”
- “ The ice cubes in my mouth console me; they give me strength. Not even the helicopter circling overhead or the ambulance racing past or the sirens announcing another attack can rattle me. With ice cubes in my mouth I am immune to fear.”
- “Like an infant I suck in the warm milk of her words, I begin to thrive, I grow up all over again in the space of a few hours. I feel as though a tree were growing inside me, it’s leave flooded with sunlight. Roots meld with my legs, branches stretch out from my shoulders, flowers blossom on my arms and sprout from my fingertips.”
- “Perhaps all survivors should tell their stories to someone else’s children, because it’s so hard to speak to your own.”
Tags: 2013, Historical Fiction, Judaic, Holocaust
Labels: 2013, Historical Fiction, Holocaust, Judaic