Three Daughters
Letty Pogrebin
book reviews:
· general fiction
· chick lit/romance
· sci-fi/fantasy
· graphic novels
· nonfiction
· audio books

Click here for the RSS Feed

· author interviews
· children's books @
· DVD reviews @

win books
buy online


for authors
& publishers

for reviewers

click here to learn more

Buy *Three Daughters* online

Three Daughters

Letty Pogrebin
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
400 pages
October 2002
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

previous review next review

Family becomes more important to most of us as we age, as does the necessity to forgive and become more tolerant. Letty Cottin Pogrebin's first novel, Three Daughters, follows three sisters' lives and their relationships with their rabbi father and each other. It concerns the power of love, faith and forgiveness, the negative and positive aspects of middle age and menopause, and the resilience of the human soul.

The three sisters have the same father, but two different mothers. They have all married and borne children, although in all other ways the women couldn't have less in common. Leah is a radical feminist scholar, married to a gentle artist. She is not a religious Jew. Rachel practices her father's religion more than her siblings. Married to a chilly lawyer, she is the richest but the least fulfilled. To contribute to the family's income, Rachel creates needlepoint pillows and plaques. The youngest, Shoshanna, is married to her soulmate, Daniel, a scholar. She is a professional runner of errands and organizer of events for others. The chapters alternate between the three sisters' points of view.

Starting with Shoshanna, the book pulls you in immediately, especially if you are middle-aged as she is, about to turn 50. Her appointment book blows off the hood of her car and its pages scatter across a major highway. She has no idea what she has scheduled for the next day or for two months later. Without her book, she will forget several birthdays. The one thing she knows, with pride and anticipation, is that her father, Sam Wasserman, pushing 90, is coming back to New York from Israel to receive a prestigious award. Her older sister Leah has been estranged from him for more than four decades, and everyone wants that situation to change, somehow.

In Three Sisters, the relationships are realistically complex and the characters very late '90s. A gay couple has been joined in a civil ceremony; a depressed man goes over the edge; one divorce occurs; one woman's child is in jail.

I heartily enjoyed this novel except for two slight things. Perhaps because I read it slowly, over a week, it took quite awhile to sort out the ages of the sisters and their relationships to their father. Two or three half-day sittings in which to read the thick novel might work better, given the luxury of free time. And the book is peppered with Yiddish words, many of which I didn't know. This is both good and bad. I did learn a lot about the culture, but I sometimes felt confused. However, with grace, the author explains some of them for her shiksa, or non-New York readers.

Here's an example of the latter:

"She'd [Shoshanna] inherited her mother's kaynahoras, the crazy fears about having too much, the obligation to be grateful for the good stuff but not to get smug or showy lest she attract people's envy, which would attract the Evil Eye, which would strike her with some horrible affliction to cut her down to size."
Pogrebin has written eight other books, including her memoir, Getting Over Getting Older. She is one of four co-founders of the Ms. Foundation for Women (in the novel, Leah runs a feminist magazine), and she lectures on Jewish issues, feminism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is an intelligent and engrossing book combining many of the author's interests and offering insight into growing old with grace and wisdom.

© 2002 by Deborah Straw for Curled Up With a Good Book

buy *Three Daughters* online
click here for more info
Click here to learn more about this month's sponsor!

fiction · sf/f · comic books · nonfiction · audio
newsletter · free book contest · buy books online
review index · links · · authors & publishers

site by ELBO Computing Resources, Inc.