The Little Bride by Anna Solomon
Paperback, 320 pages
September 6, 2011
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Received from author for review
When 16-year-old Minna Losk journeys from Odessa to America as a mail-order bride, she dreams of a young, wealthy husband, a handsome townhouse, and freedom from physical labor and pogroms. But her husband Max turns out to be twice her age, rigidly Orthodox, and living in a one-room sod hut in South Dakota with his two teenage sons. The country is desolate, the work treacherous. Most troubling, Minna finds herself increasingly attracted to her older stepson. As a brutal winter closes in, the family's limits are tested, and Minna, drawing on strengths she barely knows she has, is forced to confront her despair, as well as her desire.
I was really interested in this book because of two things: the concept of mail-order brides and the theme of settling the West. The book did pull through on both of these promises; however I found I was very disconnected with the book. Let me explain.
First, what I liked. The early portion of the novel, when Minna, is still in Odessa, was probably the most interesting to me. I didn’t know anything about the real concept of mail-order brides – you only typically hear people speaking jokingly about them. In this novel, Minna, is trying to escape from the familial and societal hard times she is facing and makes the choice that trying to get to America is what she needs to do. We experience what it was like to go through the physical examination to determine if Minna meets the needs to the man looking to marry her. Here, you feel her fear of answering “incorrectly” and being excluded from being chosen. You also are privy to her hopes and fears regarding a better life. I even enjoyed the packed-in-a-sardine-can boat trip to America. The Western experience was also very enlightening. To see just how hard it was to cut you way into a small parcel of semi-successful land was so inspiring.
I did however have some issues with the book – mostly because it was slow moving. There were many times where it felt like it was just dragging on and the story wasn’t moving forward. It was more of a character driven novel rather than an events driven novel. It is building the Western American immigrant experience – particularly focusing on the Jewish immigrant experience. I realized that I would have NEVER survived out there. By the end of the novel – I found that I didn’t really like Minna. She seemed like a complainer and I didn’t like the choices she made toward the end of the book. Overall, it was something I learned from, but maybe wouldn’t choose to read again.
This is author Anna Solomon’s debut novel. You can visit her website or blog for additional information about the book. The website provides really nice add on information about The Little Bride – you can explore the different aspects of Minna’s trip or check out the reader’s guide.
You can also watch the book trailer below.
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