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The Pursuit of Happiness: A Novel Hardcover – May 1, 1991


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 473 pages
  • Publisher: Summit Books; First Edition edition (May 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671667548
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671667542
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,486,080 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Proving that generational novels need not be commercial dross, Roiphe ( A Season for Healing ) has produced an imaginatively plotted and dextrously written saga that follows the Gruenbaum family from a Polish shtetl to New York's Lower East Side and then up the social and economic ladder. Rich in atmosphere and detail, boasting solidly realized characters drawn with empathy but with unsentimental depiction of their faults and foibles, the story is told in a series of random flashbacks, interspersed with the narrator's tart, ironic asides: "Reader: Do not assume that immigrants are all the same and that all family stories begin on a boat and end up with a safe-deposit box at Chase Manhattan." Fleeing poverty and pogroms, pious tailor Moses Gruenbaum, his plucky wife Naomi and their three children arrive here in 1880; after enduring years of penury, their son Isaac founds a suit-manufacturing company, and the family's fortunes begin an upward climb, interrupted by numerous setbacks and tragedies. Some of the Gruenbaum descendents are corrupted by wealth; others feel the need to assimilate to ensure social status. Tracing the lives of five fractious generations, Roiphe acknowledges the impartial hand of fate that sometimes strikes down the innocent and rewards the wicked. A teaser throughout the narrative, whose answer is not revealed until the last page, concerns the condition of a young woman undergoing emergency surgery in a Jerusalem hospital. Roiphe makes good use of the social history of each decade, but her major achievement is a panoply of memorable, thoroughly engaging characters.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This is the story of the Gruenbaum family, who immigrate to America in 1892, build an empire in the rag trade, lose it, and find themselves in their fifth generation in Israel. At the center of the story is Hedy, who carries inside her the restlessness and pragmatic idealism of four generations of Gruenbaums. Hedy is the keeper of the family secrets. They pour out, helter-skelter, in a biblical tone of voice that can't help commenting on the action even as it mixes years and generations. The story is rich in eccentric and believable characters whose lives embrace the varied facets of Jewish-American life, from orthodox tradition to socialist intellectualism, from troubled marriages to gangland murders, from crazy uncles to rebellious daughters. The novel opens and closes with Hedy in the hospital in Israel, waiting to hear if her daughter survives a bullet meant for someone else. But she knows that the Gruenbaums, even in the face of death, tragedy, and war, survive. Good popular fiction with a refreshing twist by the author of Up the Sandbox (LJ 10/15/70) and Lovingkindness (LJ 8/87).
-Donna L. Schulman, Cornell Univ. Libs., New York
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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