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Three Daughters Hardcover – October 17, 2002

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (October 17, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374276609
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374276607
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,238,698 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

The first novel by Ms. magazine cofounder and nonfiction writer Letty Cottin Pogrebin (Deborah, Golda, and Me), Three Daughters is a story of estrangement and reconciliation. Fifty-year-old Shoshanna Safer leaves her beloved planner on the roof of her car and, retracing her steps, finds only a few pages fluttering across the Henry Hudson Parkway. "The curator of her commitments"--holder of gift lists, addresses, phone numbers, appointments, credit cards, and receipts--this planner was the lynchpin of her social and professional lives. Taking its loss as symbolic, Shoshanna turns her organizational fervor to a goal that needs no date book: the reuniting of her father Samuel, a rabbi, with his eldest daughter Leah, a radical feminist with a bristly demeanor, a Mensa-level intellect, and a fondness for the F word. Similarly, she wants to heal the breach between Leah and Rachel, the suburban sister, whose adolescent sportiness gave way to an unfashionable devotion to religion and homemaking. Pogrebin has a playful way with words, and even when she lingers too lovingly on her characters' quirks, burbling on for a few extra pages here and there, the reader isn't likely to complain. Three Daughters is an auspicious fictional debut and a great gift for sisters. --Regina Marler

From Publishers Weekly

Augmenting a prolific career as memoirist, commentator and editor (she was a founding editor of Ms.), Pogrebin has crafted a first novel that embraces her favorite themes. (Her most recent nonfiction titles Deborah, Golda and Me: Being Female and Jewish in America and Getting Over Getting Older could serve as subtitles for this book.) The eponymous daughters are the progeny of Rabbi Sam Wasserman, whose impending return from Israel to the States for his 90th birthday proves a defining event for his family. Leah, the oldest, born of Sam's first marriage to crazy Dena, knows it's now or never to reconcile with her father. Brilliant and brooding, a dark star of second-wave feminism, Leah touchingly metamorphoses into a different brand of strong woman, able to appreciate and lean on her less doctrinal sisters. Rachel, the second in line, is Sam's stepchild, the daughter of Sam's second wife, Esther, who was his great love. Adopted and adored by Sam, Rachel has inherited his ardor for the Torah. As the novel progresses, she is transformed from a needlepoint-working, factoid-spouting rich man's wife into a flinty divorcee heading for the seminary. As for Shoshanna, the youngest, born to Sam and Esther, "[her] challenge was simply to accept that the woman she was was the woman she would likely remain intrepid, cautious, decent, and fundamentally content with her lot." Talky, smart, hopeful and empathic, this will be a must-read for Pogrebin's contemporaries.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

I had a very hard time enjoying this book.
Very interesting...too wordy in some areas... I could relate as with my experience ,as I am one with 2 sisters and I am blessed with 3 daughters (-and one son).
This book shines with a brilliance that is, as someone said below, breathtaking.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By erica on July 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover
"Three Daughters", the first novel of accomplished feminist and non-fiction writer Letty Pogrebin, tells the story of three sisters and their families, friends, and pasts. Each of the sisters lives a life that is both exactly what she wants and a failure: each is estranged from her family, or from reality, or from her truest self. Through the course of the novel, they begin to recognize their weaknesses and, with each others' help, forge the beginnings of a better life.
It sounds like an Oprah Book Club book, and it reads like one at times. Pogrebin is obviously a novice; she tries too hard to make clever use of language and often overuses it. But she writes interesting, believable characters who live in a plausible world. The story is complex enough to be absorbing for nearly 400 pages (in a time of 200-page books, it's nice to have something to sink one's teeth into) without being confusing. And, while this book will not win any awards for depth or thematic subtlety, it's an interesting and inspiring read.
That this book is most interesting to Jewish women hardly needs saying; the sisters are Jewish and they make no secret of it. I found the book to be self-conscious about its religious emphasis at times, but Pogrebin's thorough knowledge of unusual aspects of Jewish faith and culture won me over.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By readernyc on April 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I rarely finish a novel and then re-open to the beginning as I did with Three Daughters. Though I've read Pogrebin's non-fiction, and found them extremely memorable, this first novel of hers is entirely different.
I couldn't believe the brilliance that ran through the entire book. Nor do I understand how anyone can say that these characters were stilted, or were told but not shown. Absolutely untrue, at least for me, each one leapt to life, as did many of the issues Leah, Shoshanna and Rachel brought with them. Each woman, or daughter was absolutely three dimensional, vivid and unique. I dearly hope one doesn't have to be Jewish and/or a New Yorker to get the depth of the mind that created this work of art.
I found all the discussions of Judaic law, of Israel, of discord in a family so nuanced and was mesmerized by the tone of the entire book, which reminded me of Saul Bellow's mind, minus his self-indulgence. This book shines with a brilliance that is, as someone said below, breathtaking. How Pogrebin can make a middle aged woman racing across a busy street to save her rolodex exciting, I can't say, because I can't do it. But this first novel was dramatic, flowing and exciting from cover to cover. "Three Daughters" was for me a rare find. Alas, I am Jewish and a sometime New Yorker, so maybe it's an acquired taste. I surely hope not. Great writing speaks universal truths, and I was simply blown away by this novel, as few others do effect me. I highly recommend all readers to give this book a careful read-through. It's more than 5 stars, and as a first novel, if not a first book, kudos to the author for a wonderful, earth-shattering read. Thank you, Ms. Pogrebin!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on December 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Perhaps it goes without saying that every loving parent does the best they can to make their child's life healthy, secure and happy. Yet, the actions, decisions and words of parents often have very different effects than intended. Children grow up in response to their parents and to the experiences of their childhood. This is at once obvious and subtle. Psychology texts (and therapists' offices) are full of analysis of childhood, its environment and experiences; it's joys and trauma. And artists, poets and writers of fiction also examine and explore childhood to understand adult patterns of behavior and thought. Letty Cottin Pogrebin, renowned activist, feminist and author of non-fiction, has produced in THREE DAUGHTERS, her first work of fiction, an outstanding novel that delves into the childhood of the Wasserman sisters and finds them, in adulthood, wrestling with the issues that have defined them since their earliest years.
Leah, Rachel and Shoshanna are three sisters who are very different from each other. However, all three are products of their childhood and are rebelling against it. Leah is Sam Wasserman's daughter from his first marriage. That marriage dissolved as he lost his wife to alcoholism and mental illness and almost lost Leah as well. Leah meets Rachel at boarding school where she was sent so that her mother, Esther, could pick up the pieces from the abusive marriage she left. Rachel and Leah bond and arrange for Sam and Esther to meet. Not only do they meet but they soon fall in love and marry. Leah and Rachel are sure they now have the happy family they have always wanted. But not all of the family's problems are healed with this merge.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Angelea on July 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This story is unusual in that the characters are more interesting than the plot. It was the three sisters, their lives, habits, and nuances that kept me reading. Leah's hardcore feminism and eclectic lifestyle was the most interesting of all. Even Rachel, the most boring of the sisters, had another, deeper side to her personality.
However, this story does have it's major flaws. First of all, I read eagerly to find out the cause of the antagonism between Leah and her father, and when I FINALLY did, I thought, "So what!" I was expecting something worth all the build up, and it definitely was a big let down. Rachel got rather annoying with all her "factoids" and there were a lot of loose ends about Leah's family at the end. I think this author is very talented at creating characters, but needs to work a little on her plotting skills.
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