Neshama’s Choices for July 18th

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Aviary

The denizens of Pheasant Run, a dilapidated apartment complex, are mostly old. New management (ominous) and an apparently incompetent building manager make their already pinched lives increasingly miserable. One determined lady, Viola, intends to unmask a conspiracy to force them out. Imagery of being caged (stuck in the building, limited by aging) and breaking free through imagination and art abound. A suspicious fire and a mysterious disappearance add tension. Eccentricities and the ingenuity of the human spirit made what might sound grim into a delightful read.  

Brazen

Subtitled My Unorthodox Journey from Long Sleeves to Lingerie. I’m fascinated by stories of the clash between rigorous sects and the modern world but didn’t know how this memoir from a reality TV star would go down. The contrast between the photos from dowdy housewife wife to brazen glamor-puss were startling, as well as her astonishing shoe designs—flashy, towering, yet comfortable. Brilliant parents who emigrated from the USSR and embraced ultra-Orthodoxy and Julia is obviously brilliant herself. How she stayed “invisible” yet seethed inside and how she finally broke free make for a story worthy of (yes) reality TV. I ate it up.  

The Yellow Bird Sings  

Rosa and young daughter Shira are hiding in a hayloft as German soldiers round up Jews. The farmer has his way with Rosa repeatedly and Shira tries to lose herself with fantasies of said bird, a “pet.” She’s also very musical. When danger increases, Shira is taken to a convent under a new name and Rosa takes to the woods.  The book tracks their separate journeys for decades. Vivid scenes, intense emotions, and questions of identity gripped me.  

The Cherry Robbers

The Chapels made their fortune manufacturing guns. Four out of the five sisters, all named for flowers, marry one by one but don’t live beyond their weddings. Each thinks she’ll be the exception. Since they’re beautiful and rich, prospective grooms are willing to chance it.  Over-the-top Goth (Mary Shelley meets Nancy Drew in a dark alley) but I had fun with it anyway. Discovered it’s based in part on the life of the Winchester firearm heiress. And Iris, the survivor, has a lot in common with New Mexican icon Georgia O’Keefe. 

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