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Set in the 1950's in New York City, CHAINS AROUND THE GRASS is a portrait of a Jewish-American family that glows with affection, tenderness, and courage when tragedy changes the lives of all who are left behind. A passionately personal and heartfelt book, based heavily on autobiographical material, this is the book Ms. Ragen says that she became an author to write.
Sara is barely six years old when her beloved father unexpectedly vanishes from her life. Her mother, Ruth, a dreamy and reluctant housewife, is now left with three small children to bring up, and the knowledge that she will somehow have to pick up the pieces, if she is to survive and fend for the family. But Sara takes up a vigil at the window of their dismal apartment, refusing to accept that her father won't be coming back.
"She thought of herself as a lighthouse keeper, a watchman on guard, a sailor on the topmost rigging, scouting for land. It was her duty to be there when the magic moment happened as it surely must, for no other explanation made any sense.
She scouted the men passing by, searching for those of a certain height, a certain weight, a certain walk... She followed each with hope until he turned right instead of left or left instead of right, or drew close enough to prove too tall or too short, too thin or two heavy. And each disappointment chipped away at her hope, reducing it, but never actually killing it. Like a plant cut to the ground, the roots sent up foolish new growth that twined around the facts, embellishing them, giving them something akin to beauty."
To this bittersweet and moving tale of childhood and the loss of innocence, the author brings the added intensity of a personal memoir. This is Naomi Ragen at her best, her writing charged with a searing, emotional truth as she unravels a tale of childhood, betrayal and the unending resilience of family love.
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Naomi Ragen is the author of four international best-sellers: Jephte's Daughter, Sotah, The Sacrifice of Tamar, and The Ghost of Hannah Mendes. Born in New York, she attended Brooklyn College and received an MA in English from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. For the last thirty years, she has made her home in Jerusalem. The translation of her books into Hebrew in 1995 has made her one of Israel's best-loved authors. An outspoken advocate for gender equality and human rights, she is a columnist for The Jerusalem Post. Ragen's first play, Women's Quorum, was commissioned by Habima, Israel's National Theater.From Publishers Weekly:
Based on novelist Ragen's own experiences growing up in an ethnically mixed low-income housing project in the Rockaways, this novel opens a window into the bittersweet world of the Markowitz family as they struggle to make ends meet in 1950s New York City. A first-generation Jewish immigrant with incredible reserves of optimism and ambition, David Markowitz trades in his religious identity for the promised gold of America, believing that "if you really wanted to, if you worked your can off, you could not only get out of Brooklyn, but get Brooklyn out of you." After being conned into making a bad investment that leaves him and his family financially and emotionally bankrupt, David dies suddenly. For the first time in her life, his wife, Ruth, must take sole responsibility for her three children, something that seems overwhelmingly difficult. Ruth manages to enroll her eldest son, Jesse, and her daughter, Sara, at a private Jewish day school. Sara embraces her educational and spiritual environment and finds hope and self-renewal in the form of her parents' lost religion. But Jesse, to his mother's dismay, refuses to attend the school and instead self-educates himself in business so that he can fulfill his father's vision of success. Terrorizing his mother with his unreasonable plans and propositions, he self-destructs. Ragen (The Ghost of Hannah Mendes; Sotah) elaborates on her usual themes, extolling the comforting power of faith in a hostile modern world. Working with familiar characters, plot and setting, she crafts a comforting if somewhat shopworn tale of family, hope, religion and the dark side of the American dream.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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