I was just saying the other day, how I liked historical fiction but that I preferred it be set in the US and not during War Time. So to say that I was intrigued by the blurb to this book speaks to the allure of this story. I was invited to read this book by the Publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The Sweetness is a poignant look into the lives of two girls, cousins who live worlds apart, both in distance and lifestyle. Mira is the daughter of a well-t0-do Jewish businessman in Brooklyn, New York. Rosha is orphaned and secreted away in a root cellar with the prayer that the Nazi soldiers in her native Vilna will not find her.
The story is told from multiple points of view but the lion’s share falls to Mira and Rosha. The differences between the cousins could not be more polar opposite. Mira worries about finishing her fashion design degree and Rosha worries about the people who have risked their lives to hide her and if Poppa and Bubbe will come back for her. With only photos and a few mementos to keep her company, Rosha suffers through seasons and sad times while Mira meets and marries the man of her dreams.
The Kane (formerly Kaninskly) family is large and loud and loving. The closeness between Mira and her Aunts, who left Poland many years before the Nazi invasion, is palpable through the pages, most especially when dealing with Jeanette and her illness.
There were a few things I thought were convenient, like Mira naming a child Rosh, after the cousin who, they supposed, had died many years ago, however at few points in the book did I feel that Mira felt any particular closeness or heartfelt sadness about the loss of her cousin. Certainly, she commiserated with her father and her aunts, but then it was not mentioned again until she decided to name her third child. It seemed a convenient vehicle, to me.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this book and traveling back to Brooklyn/Poland in the 1940’s. The imagery was vivid, the descriptions rich, most especially of Mira’s designs. A deeply poignant, stirring novel. If you enjoy historical fiction and Jewish history and fiction, I think you will enjoy The Sweetness.