A Five Star Pick
I was so convinced that this novel was about a real person—the author did such an amazing job! Malka boards a ship to America with her Russian Jewish family when she is a little girl, to start a new life. Her father tells her in confidence that instead of sailing down to the original destination of South Africa, he has switched the tickets in hopes of living the “American Dream”. As they arrive at the dock of New York in 1913, life is more tough and less glamorous than expected. Not only can they barely afford to keep themselves up (Malka and her sister must find ways to make money on the street because they are too young to be hired for real work), their father leaves the family to fend for themselves. After a horrible accident, where Malka gets her legs run over by a horse cart, she is taken in by the ice-cream peddler who ran her down. She is cut from her family and then converts to Catholicism, changing her name to Lillian. The story is a flashback to what Lillian remembers, as she is now in her eighties and is battling a court case for something unknown, until the events accumulate to the answer at the end. Indeed, the protagonist is both lovable and cruel at the same time. One thing she certainly proves is that she cannot be taken advantage of and Lillian shows early on her wittiness in the ice cream business. Who else could convince children to get vaccinated during the Polio epidemic? Spanning over a number of important moments in history, you will be sorry if you miss this humorous yet insightful tale.