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The Little Bride Paperback – September 6, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; 1 Original edition (September 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594485356
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594485350
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #654,684 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

When 16-year-old Minna Losk journeys from Odessa to America as a mail-order bride, she dreams of a young, wealthy husband, a handsome townhouse, and freedom from physical labor and pogroms. But her husband Max turns out to be twice her age, rigidly Orthodox, and living in a one-room sod hut in South Dakota with his two teenage sons. The country is desolate, the work treacherous. Most troubling, Minna finds herself increasingly attracted to her older stepson. As a brutal winter closes in, the family's limits are tested, and Minna, drawing on strengths she barely knows she has, is forced to confront her despair, as well as her desire.



Author One-on-One: Anna Solomon and Jenna Blum

In this Amazon.com exclusive, Anna Solomon is interviewed by author Jenna Blum about The Little Bride, her influences, and the challenges of writing historical fiction.

Anna Solomon

Jenna Blum: Congratulations on the publication of your debut novel, The Little Bride. Most first novels are presumed to be largely autobiographical, but I like to do everything backwards, so my debut novel, Those Who Save Us, is not. (And you wouldn't believe the number of readers who are surprised when I show up at events and I'm not an 80-something German woman or a 50-something German history professor with an attitude problem.) One assumes you are not a mail-order emigrant from Odessa who homesteaded in the 19th-century Dakotas, so how did you come to write The Little Bride, and how much of it stems from your family background?

Anna Solomon: It's true, I'm not a mail-order bride. I'm not a pioneer, either. I did work as a chambermaid one summer, so maybe that covers the maidservant part? And my paternal great grandfather came from outside Odessa, so I'd always been fascinated by the City of Thieves. Some family lore makes it in to the book. But really I discovered this story accidentally. I was Googling myself--don't laugh!--when I came across another Anna Solomon, on a website called Stories Untold: Jewish Women Pioneers. And I thought, Jewish women pioneers? I started learning about them, and the mail-order brides among them, and that's how The Little Bride began.

Blum: One challenge in writing a historical novel is that one can't get into a time machine and travel back to get the hands-on details. Instead, one might rely on what one of my readers kindly referred to as "method research," i.e. craziness like, just for instance, writing while wearing a drindl skirt and one's hair in braids. What research did you undertake for The Little Bride and what inroads did it make into your waking/dreaming life?

Solomon: My "methods" are a little half-baked, I'm afraid. I mean, I did a ton of research. And I had spent time in South Dakota on a public radio assignment, which gave me a real feel for the landscape. But mostly I just sat and imagined. Sometimes I would move my hands around in the air --seeing what it might feel like it to braid grass, for instance. Also, I ate a bunch if sunflower seeds, and I touched tomato plants then went around smelling my fingers. Many of the visceral details I drew from other writers--Isaac Babel, Willa Cather--who had lived during these times, in these places. I let their senses guide me.

Jenna Blum

Blum: Your writing reminds me of so many great writers' works: Isaac Bashevis Singer, Amy Bloom, Willa Cather, Alice Munro--all rolled into one and compulsively readable! I think it's the combination of your matter-of-fact charting and acceptance of human foibles combined with the wryest humor. Not to mention a graceful turn of phase on every page. I might hate you if I didn't love you, but meanwhile, whom do you read when you want to remember how to write, and why?

Solomon: I'm blushing. Certainly the writers you mention have all influenced me, Munro perhaps the most. Recently I've fallen in love with Elizabeth Strout and I find myself opening her books for just about any reason I can make up. Others I turn to often: Lorrie Moore, for honesty and humor; Annie Proulx, for energy; Marilynne Robinson, for patience; Michael Cunningham, for structure and grace; Anton Chekhov, when I need courage.

Blum: Full disclosure: I've known you since 1998, when you took my first fiction workshop at Grub Street Writers (okay, the first fiction workshop I ever taught, unbeknownst to you--I hope!). I told you then I thought you will be a very important writer. Where do you see your career in 15 years?

Solomon: If I make as much progress as I have in the last thirteen years, I'll be very happy. It amazes me now how little I knew back in that workshop--which was my first as a student! I feel lucky to have had so many amazing teachers who have emphasized the work itself, not the publishing part. You have to do the work--the rest will follow. Mostly I hope I can keep that focus, on writing, on telling the stories I want to tell. If I can do that, then there will be more books, and hopefully readers who love them.

Blum: In addition to being in awe of your writing, I'm in awe that you managed to write The Little Bride while raising your lovely young daughter, Sylvie. How has being a mother affected you as a writer?

Solomon: You mean besides having to lug a breast pump to the Brooklyn Writers Space when I first went back to work? Being a mother has changed the logistics of my writing, certainly: I can no longer be at my desk within 15 minutes of waking, and I have less time overall. But it's also made me more efficient. I went to an artist's residency last year for two weeks and it felt like a year - I wrote fifty pages of a new novel! More importantly, motherhood has given me more perspective on, well, just about everything. Certainly it helped me understand the characters in The Little Bride in ways I couldn't have before. And writing has influenced my mothering, too. Last week, Sylvie said to me, "Mama, can we stay on the swings for just one more page?" And I thought, ah, it's rubbing off.

Anna Solomon photo by Nina Subin

Review

"An epic tale immigrant tale set on the Dakota prairie. . . . In this mythic rendition of the American immigrant narrative, Solomon's quirky prose finds the wondrous in the ordinary and vividly depicts the complex collisions between the old and new world."—More

"In her emotionally honest debut novel, The Little Bride, Anna Solomon draws on an 1880s U.S. homesteading movement called Am Olam. Jewish newcomers were encouraged to settle out west as pioneers. The result wasn't some cheerful ‘little shtetl on the prairie,’ as Solomon's heroine discovers. Impoverished Minna Losk is a 16-year-old Jewish mail- order bride from Odessa and one of the more realistic pioneers depicted in recent historical fiction. Suffering hasn't hewn her into a plucky stereotype. Instead, she is someone the reader instantly empathizes with. She wants love, and ends up with a husband twice her age. She craves comfort, and ends up in a South Dakota one-room sod hut. A fascinating if sometimes bleak page turner."—USA Today

"An engrossing slice of history. . . . The Little Bride offers a precious glimpse of the wondrously strange story of Jewish immigration evoked by Anna Solomon in her debut novel. Like other talented young Jewish-American novelists Jonathan Safran Foer and Dara Horn, Solomon fruitfully imagines faraway times and climes in The Little Bride—Europe's Odessa and America's Dakota Territory in the late 19th century, specifically—and creates a winning 16-year-old heroine in Minna Losk. . . . [A] moving debut."—The Miami Herald

“This is a very intensely imagined book, an elegantly written pocket of forgotten history.”—Audrey Niffenegger, author of the New York Times–bestselling The Time Traveler’s Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry

 

“Evocative of Alice Munro, Amy Bloom, and Willa Cather, but fueled by Anna Solomon’s singular imagination, The Little Bride is a masterful debut.  This tale of a Jewish mail-order bride’s homestead experience on the Great Plains is embroidered with sage, beautiful writing on every page and marks the start of a long, fine, and important career.”—Jenna Blum, author of Those Who Save Us

 

The Little Bride is a love story. An immigrant’s story. But most important: a story of hope and courage in the face of overwhelming odds. Anna Solomon has written a heart-wrenchingly good novel, with vivid characters and an epic frontier landscape that will haunt you long after you've turned the final page.”—Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief

 

 “Anna Solomon has created a singular heroine whose story of dashed dreams and eventual triumph is a wise and timeless wonder. Intense and gorgeous, The Little Bride gives us an unparalleled snapshot of the West.”—Jennifer Gilmore, author of Golden Country and Something Red

 

“A lush, gorgeous first novel. Immerse yourself in its world.”—Irina Reyn, author of What Happened to Anna K. 

 

“An affecting tale of 19th century Jewish settlers who find their America not on the noisy streets of the Lower East Side, but on the boundless, desolate Dakota Plains. A stirring love story and an unsettling, original portrait of the New World.”—Sana Krasikov, author of One More Year


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Customer Reviews

This debut novel by Anna Solomon is a beautiful, surprising book.
Katie
Unfortunately, the reader doesn't get into the heads of any male characters and that lack is felt in the book so it is not as three-dimensional as it could be.
Book lover -Philadelphia
I just did not enjoy reading this book and could not even finish it!
Heidi

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Jerri Chaplin on September 17, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Recent years have brought several novels featuring pure, pious young Jewish women immigrating in the 19th or early 20th centuries from E. Europe to NYC. These heroines overcome all obstacles, human and situational, and win the American dream in the end.

"The Little Bride" is not one of those books. It stands alone. Minna, 16, leaves Odessa as a mail order bride, not a plucky, flawless young woman. She lands not in the East Side but in South Dakota, belonging to a groom over twice her age. Moreover, she is expected to be mother to his sons, one of whom is her own age and attractive. She finds no dream house or fashionable wardrobe, but the plainest the Plains have to offer. Anna Solomon gives us not the ideal heroine, but one more fully human. At times, you don't like her. Her story unfolds in totally unexpected directions, surprising you all the way.

Solomon's language is lean and poetic. We may call something "unexamined";she calls it "unquarried." Her images of grass and fists expand ours. A wonderful book, refreshingly new in voice. I read it at night, losing sleep, yet was sorry to see it end.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Abby on September 14, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The best novels transcend genre. They grab our collars by the fistfuls and say "Listen!" Before we know it, we care about the characters who inhabit them. The Little Bride stakes unapologetic claim to this level of intimacy. Solomon paints, uses and transcends the historical setting to get at the main character's humanity. The reader sees teenaged Minna's impulses and fantasies flung up against the grim realities of survival, both on the frontier and in an arranged marriage. Her tale keeps the reader riveted on the three-way friction between want, agency and circumstance. Solomon tackles the universal - faith, duty, instinct, desire, the relative freedom of our will - through the personal, and succeeds. I rooted for Minna all the way. A gripping, moving read.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Charlotte C. Gordon on September 7, 2011
Format: Paperback
I was fascinated by this book. From first chapter to the last, I was gripped by the story, but also profoundly interested in the history I was learning. This is a great read for people who love good fiction and also those who enjoy non-fiction, as Solomon clearly did her research! The originality and imaginative force behind this book suggest to me that Solomon is well on her way to becoming a major figure in the American literary scene.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Cyndi on September 24, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Little Bride was a surprisingly engrossing read. I couldn't put it down as once I began, I had to know what happened to the characters, particularly Minna. The analogies the author uses hit home. I could see some of myself and I suppose all of mankind in many of the ideas presented so eloquently. The historical aspect was an extra plus and I always know it's good when I take to my computer to learn more about a place and time I am reading about which I did with this book. I want to read more about Minna and of her life in the early 1900's....
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By sonya34 on September 10, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I love historical fiction, but the kind I'm used to spends as much time on the backdrop and context as on the characters themselves. The Little Bride takes a different approach to historical fiction, an approach that I really loved. Ms. Solomon attends to the history, but she focuses on the characters, which enabled me to really connect with them, especially with Minna, the heroine.

The historical context is there, and it's fascinating. The experience of Jews in Odessa in the 19th century, of rural life in South Dakota... all of that is woven through the tale seamlessly and beautifully. My imagination was captured by the idea of the stark options facing an orphaned but independent-minded teenage girl at that time and place, with few safety nets besides chance and creativity.

But Ms. Solomon never lets the history overtake the story. By focusing on Minna's inner life and perceptions of those around her, Ms. Solomon paints a vivid character who feels real. I connected with Minna, even as I learned how different she was from myself. I cared about her story, so much so that I couldn't put The Little Bride down until I finished reading!

I highly recommend this unique and compelling book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Blodeuedd on September 24, 2011
Format: Paperback
I think the beauty with this book was this quietness over it, this stillness and contemplation that what happens happens. Which also makes this one hard book to rate, because even if I liked the story and so on I would rate it one way. But then I look at the writing and the feeling and it has to have a better rating. Because it is just good.

The story is about Minna who is a servant in Odessa, bad times being a Jew there, or anywhere for that matter. So she signs with an agency and becomes a mail order bride. Poor Minna has hopes for a better life and she is not prepared for the harsh life of a farmer's wife. She could have managed but the thing is that her new husband is no farmer. He knows nothing at all and he is very strict orthodox and the farm suffers because of it. Well the hut, the mule, the cow and a little field that makes up the farm. But there is freedom there, freedom to be themselves. And this in a land where there is another people worse off than they are. The story is good, and I liked Minna and her silent suffering. Her husband is a good man, just too good and clueless. Her stepsons are nice too, but there we get the little bit of drama, attraction. Not to mention a winter of suffering as they have no food and it's cold.

The only thing I did not like was the end, it was ok, but that was just it. We got a little insight in what happens in her life. But I was not happy. Still, why should I be, she seemed happy and that is all that matters.

It is a book I recommend, because in the end I have not read a book like this. Yes sure I have read books about pioneers, but not about Jewish pioneers, and rules brings another dimension to this new life. Neither did I know about the am olam movement. And I do like a book that manages to teach me something too.

Conclusion:
In the end, it is the author's voice that I like, and it is a great debut.
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