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Sima's Undergarments for Women: A Novel Paperback – May 25, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Nestled in a tight-knit Brooklyn community, 65-year-old Sima Goldner’s discount lingerie shop is a prime business in her orthodox Jewish neighborhood, and, more importantly, it is also a haven for the many women who frequent her small basement store. Discontented with her marriage to a bumbling, retired schoolteacher named Lev, Sima pours herself into her business and her varied customers, many of whom use the privacy of her shop as a forum to ruminate about their relationships, families, and lives. Sima’s everyday routine is indelibly changed with the arrival of the young, vibrant Timna, an attractive Israeli expatriate who applies to work as a seamstress. As the relationship between Sima and Timna evolves, Sima finds herself confronting the realities of her infertility and the complexities of her past, long shrouded in shame and adolescent regret. Backdropped by the shop’s colorful patrons, Stanger-Ross’ engaging novel follows Sima as she struggles to find balance in navigating her newfound relationship with Timna while exploring the intense depths of personal reconciliation and redemption. --Leah Strauss --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


 From Entertainment Weekly:
Despite the excitement of owning her own lingerie business, Sima's childless life seems an empty shell  until an Israeli woman named Timna walks into her Brooklyn shop and becomes the daughter (and seamstress) she never had. Timna soon becomes an object of obsession for Sima, who tries to control the love life of her new employee as she reflects on her own. Sima's Undergarments for Women's conclusion is frustrating  you'll wait for a juicy revelation about Timna that never arrives Ñ but no matter. In Sima, Ilana Stanger-Ross has created one of the most painfully realistic characters in recent memory, making Women more delicate and refined than the silkiest of nighties.

"Hidden beneath the red and orange brick two-story homes of Boro Park, Brooklyn, is Sima Goldner's basement lingerie shop, where for 35 years she has practiced the mystic art of finding and fitting just the right brassiere for all types of women. "In a glance she could see their size, the back and the cup combined. '36-D,' she'd say. In vain the women protested, 'but I'm a 34. I've always been.' [But] when on her advice they slipped back on their shirts to evaluate the shape a new bra gave, they inevitably agreed." So, too, will readers slip into Brooklyn native Ilana Stanger-Ross's debut novel, finding something both comforting and uplifting. Sima's life looks enviably stable, with her successful business, her tight-knit Orthodox community and her decades-long marriage to Lev. But Sima herself is very much an outsider: "no one gathered at her table for Shabbat dinner, no one caught her up on the gossip outside synagogue on Saturday." And her marriage has lasted years, but it comes with a sense of emptiness and crippling distance as Lev repeatedly chimes, "I didn't notice you were gone." Then a young, vivacious Israeli named Timna blows into her shop, sticks around as a salesgirl and proves to be the catalyst that will reveal the gaping wounds bubbling underneath Sima's placid exterior." The New York Post

Backdropped by the shop's colorful patrons, Stanger-Ross engaging novel follows Sima as she struggles to find balance in navigating her newfound relationship with Timna while exploring the intense depths of personal reconciliation and redemption.Booklist

CharmingÉfilled with gentle uplift.Kirkus

This book is a rare little bird that should have a chance to spread its wings widely and at great distance. Sarah Weinman, Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind Blog

This is Ilana Stanger-Ross' first novel and she has certainly succeeded in writing a though-provoking and meaningful debut. I felt very invested in Sima and her feelings and hoped that she would overcome the hardships of her past and let Timna's influence prevail. I loved the sense of camaraderie that is almost tangible throughout the novel between all the women sharing the common bond and connection through Sima's shopÉThe book itself is incredibly charming and well-written.

Sima's Undergarments for Women is a novel alive to the hidden stories all around us, from the bittersweet ambivalence of adulthood's first choices to the heartbreak and forgiveness that form the underwire of any long marriage. With grace, good humor, and a seamstress's eye for the way unconnected lives can become stitched together, Ilana Stanger-Ross pulls back the curtain on a world of intimacy many know well but no one has described so movingly.--Peter Manseau, author of Songs for the Butchers Daughter

You're in for a novel that's truly novel. Breaking new ground in graceful, unselfconscious, and very funny prose, Stanger-Ross explores the force of thwarted "mother-love" its power both to harm and to ultimately heal.--Ellis Avery, author of The Teahouse Fire

From Library Journal
Sima Goldberg, owner of a bra shop in Brooklyn, NY, is the kind of woman whom other women trust. Sima is privy to the thoughts and desires of her clientele as she custom-fits each one with undergarments that lift, correct, and enhance their female figures...all at discount prices, of course. But while her patrons bare their souls to Sima, she manages to keep the biggest secret to herself, one that has been a burden for over 46 years. It is only when Sima hires Timna, a young Israeli girl, to be her assistant that her secret is exposed. Timna is a free spirit who moves through Sima's life offering her the allure of love and adventure, yet when Timna flees, she leaves behind a wake of destruction. Debut novelist Stanger-Ross writes about the intimacy among women whose lives are defined by their Orthodox Jewish community. She deftly reveals just enough information about her characters to excite the reader's curiosity without making the story line predictable. In the end, this is a tale about appreciating one's life, and isn't that what life is about? --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (May 25, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143117483
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143117483
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #354,250 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By My 2 Cents VINE VOICE on July 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In Sima's Undergarments for Women, Sima Goldner is a 65 year old woman, who runs a lingerie shop out of the basement of her Brooklyn home, which she shares with her husband, Lev of 46 years.

(Chapter 1- first paragraph......

"SIMA SURPRISED HERSELF BY BLUSHING AT THE ROUND perfection of the young woman's breasts. For thirty-five years, after all, breasts had been her business: she knew the slight curve of the preteen breast, its nipple rigid when unveiled in the cool air of her basement shop; the aching breasts of pregnant women, skin shiny and striped from stretch; the parchment breasts of the elderly, liver-spotted, soft with down; she knew breasts with pink nipples, olive nipples, brown nipples; nipples pushed in and pulled out, tiny as dimes, large as the ringed stain of a coffee cup; she knew heavy breasts on thin women and thin breasts on heavy women; breasts 28A, 52K, and breasts with a cup size between them. She even and of course knew the knotted red scar of the breast that was no longer there, the twisting keloid marker of what science had stolen away".

Sima teaches women to appreciate their bodies, even though her own body has disappinted her. Childless, Sima is saddened by the fact that she was never able to have a child. One day Timna, a beautiful Israeli woman wanders into Sima's shop in the Jewish Orthodox neighborhood. Sima becomes fascinated with this lovely woman. Timna is just out of the Army, and here without a visa, while waiting for her boyfriend to get out of the Army. When Timna learns that Sima is looking to hire a seamstress for the shop, she convinces Sima to hire her. Timna is like a breath of fresh air; she brings new life to the shop.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By N. Z. A. Dancis on March 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is a book that I didn't want to end. I found myself trying to slow it down, taking breaks so as not to finish it in one sitting, and then finally giving in and staying up late into the night, sometimes so caught up that I would read two sentences at once. Other times, I would reread a sentence several times marveling at the beautiful detailed imagery.

I wholeheartedly enjoyed this novel. Having read the synopsis in advance, I thought I knew what to expect. But it was so much richer than the frame story would suggest. It's one of those books where the author does not rely on major plot twists to make things happen, yet everything changes dramatically, in a gradual and subtle way. The way Sima lived for decades was no longer possible anymore once she let desire into her life.

I especially liked the way the story unfolded, the past and the present interwoven. And in the end, not everything is revealed. I liked that too. For me it means the story doesn't quite end. I can continue to think about the characters I got to know so intimately.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca on March 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I was moved by this wonderfully written novel. The character of Sima is so rich - flawed but true - and her story unfolds with so much depth and emotion. Themes of motherhood, longing, regret and desire interweave beautifully - and in such a unique setting.

The writer crafts her story - her sentences even - with such lyrical and evocative language, it's truly a delight to read.

This really is a gem of a book!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Rebekah Sue Carolla VINE VOICE on June 28, 2010
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In Sima's Undergarments for Women, author Ilana Stanger-Ross tells a unique story about a little shop in Brooklyn, which catered to the undergarment needs of the local women. Without advertising, Sima ran a successful business totally by word-of-mouth in the little community.

Everything changed when Timna entered the shop. The beautiful - no, perfect-looking - Israeli woman bought her lingerie and came back because Sima had mentioned needing a seamstress. With her flair and style, Timna changed the little shop and, in doing so, changed Sima's world.

Throughout the book, the reader also learned about the 65-year-old Sima's horribly failed attempts at conceiving a child in her youth. The story is heartbreaking, and will resonate with a lot of women. Perhaps this is why Sima was so taken with the young Timna, a woman that Sima felt needed mothering.

Sima's Undergarments for Women is an excellent, well-written story about a little shop in Brooklyn, about a woman and her best friend, a woman and her husband and how they've grown apart over the years, about a woman and her slightly unhealthy need to take care of her seamstress and, above all, about a little neighborhood. While I found Sima's interest in Timna slightly creepy, I still think that this is a great book for someone who's just looking for a story - no romance, no mystery, no history, just a good book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mayflower Girl on September 8, 2010
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I thought this would be a book that I read in a day or so--especially after reading some of the reviews. Unfortunately, it took me quite a few weeks. I think part of the problem was the constant switching back between the present and Sima's past. It occurred too often within the same chapter, for my taste. As much as I liked the characters, as familiar as Boro Park is (I lived in Bensonhurst for awhile), it took me awhile to get into it. In the end, I really enjoyed it.

At first, it seemed that Sima had almost a lesbian crush on Timna--which was rather disturbing. It turns out, though, that Sima envied Timna's life, youth, and freedom--yet didn't realize how lucky she was to have what she has--her business, her friends, her life, and even Lev, her oft-ignored husband. In the end, though, Timna is like the daughter that Sima and Lev never had. There were a few big surprises in the book near the end--one regarding Sima's past, and the other regarding one of Sima's friends. I honestly never saw either coming--which is always nice, as many books are too predictable.

Although I think the character of Sima was very well developed, Timna was not as well developed. We never really learned much about her or what motivated her--other than a bit of Wanderlust and a desire to not be like her Mom. Perhaps it's because most of the story is told through Sima's voice--and she too, is trying to figure out her Israeli seamstress.

If you find like me that it takes you a bit of time to get into the book, I urge you to continue. In the end, I was very glad that I read the book--and it made me take a look at my life and see what perhaps I was taking for granted.
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