August 1, 2023
Rebecca Cohen and her family live in Istanbul, until they lose all their wealth and are forced to leave. It’s also no longer safe for Jews, and many are trying to find a place to go. Rebecca’s father, once a successful businessman, now cleans a synagogue in Barcelona. Rebecca finds work as a seamstress and marries a man who is barely at home. He later dies, leaving her with two young sons to raise on her own, but she’s already started her own business. A second marriage is arranged, but she has to get to Havana to meet her potential husband, and he has to lie to get back to the states faster than the usual bureaucracy allows. Finally, married and in her new home, she’s challenged with helping her disabled stepdaughter, learning yet another new language, and building a new life. Rebecca was a tenacious heroine whose story has been lovingly fictionalized by her granddaughter, author Elizabeth Graver.
Elizabeth Graver’s fourth novel, The End of the Point, was long-listed for the 2013 National Book Award in Fiction and selected as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Her other novels are Awake, The Honey Thief, and Unravelling. Her story collection, Have You Seen Me?, won the 1991 Drue Heinz Literature Prize. Her work has been anthologized in Best American Short Stories, Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards, The Pushcart Prize Anthology, and Best American Essays. She teaches at Boston College and tends to a field of rocking horses known to her and her family by a secret name but to the wider world as Ponyhenge.