The Silver Locket (review)

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The Silver LocketThe Silver Locket by Sophia Bar-Lev
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“ ‘I think that there’s something special happening here—a kind of “hashgacha pratis” like the Rabbi talks about. … Oh, that’s Hebrew for “an intervention of divine providence” ’ ”The Silver Locket, p. 23.

The “something special” Rosalie Lapkin refers to in the above quote (taken from a conversation with her, Sarah Rosenfeld and the Rabbi’s wife) plays out over the next 20+ years of Sophia Bar-Lev’s novel The Silver Locket. In it Rosalie’s and Sarah’s lives intertwine at the most basic level—a shared child.

The story, that is set on opposite sides of the U.S. (Massachusetts and California), encompasses the time from the conception to the marriage of Rebecca Lapkin Silver (1941 to 1965). In it we experience the minefield of mother-love, adoption, and abortion—particularly from the mothers’ points of view. We witness the powerful aftermaths of both deceit and honesty. We see how kept secrets can sap energy and steal joy. And we watch the goodness of God playing out in mercy, love, forgiveness, and second chances.

I really enjoyed the Jewish cultural setting of this book with its emphasis on family and faith, and its distinctive holidays and ceremonies.

The background material to the book states that the story is based on a true one and its plot often had he feel of actual events to me. I liked that the location and date of the action heads most chapters—helping me to keep my bearings. In lots of ways the story also felt like a time capsule with its mention of U.S. political events and the cultural trends of the time:

August 1960 – California: “By now they were on their way stopping enroute for lunch at a relatively new restaurant that was garnering a great deal of attention in 1960 with their year long advertising campaign: ‘Look for the Golden Arches’ ” p. 167.

1960 – Massachusetts: “The key turning point of the campaign was the four Kennedy-Nixon debates, the first presidential debates ever held” – p. 182.

November 1960 – California: “Swiss Family Robinson was playing in theaters nationwide. It was the first wide screen Disney film shot with a new technology called Panavision lenses” – p. 198.

But more than these interesting historical tidbits, the book delivers some wonderful wisdom. Listen to what Sarah says when she counsels her friend who is struggling with guilt over the two abortions she’s attempted (one of them successful):

“God always forgives when we turn to Him; and He expects us to forgive ourselves as well. … we have to learn to forgive ourselves.”

and

“Has it occurred to you that maybe God didn’t let it work? That perhaps He was protecting you from yourself? … It’s about an unborn life that has a purpose and a destiny and I want you to consider that your baby’s destiny may just be more important than your emotions” – p. 92,93.

And this bit by Rabbi Lowenstein:

“It’s time to be done with secrets. Just tell the plain truth” – p. 236.

This is a beautiful, positive, and life-affirming story that renews faith in God and people.

I received The Silver Locket as a gift for the purpose of writing a review.

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Veil of Tears (review)

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_225_350_Book.1269.coverVeil of Secrets by Shannon Ethridge

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Take a large cast of characters including: Dave Dawson, senator; Will Connors his friend and backroom organizer; Melanie Connors, Will’s frigid wife; Sophie, their 16-year-old hungry-for-life daughter; Caroline Connors, Will’s sharp, attractive, single sister; Tucker Keyes, Carrie’s old drinking buddy from Princeton, now a wanna-be-journalist; a tent city of MoveIn protestors; and a series of frightening cyber attacks that for brief periods commandeer all electronic devices. Superimpose the above on the November to December months of Dave Dawson’s run for president—the season of presidential primaries in New Hampshire—and you have Veil of Secrets, a contemporary story about politics, relationships, and morality in America by Shannon Ethridge and Kathy Mackel.

Lots of action, complications, and trouble in the characters’ lives drew me into the story from the opening chapter. These people are complex and well-developed with detailed pasts. The plot develops naturally as the veils covering those pasts keep getting torn away by events of the present.

The writing style is smart, punchy, and perfect for this fast-paced tale. Take, for example, this description of Tucker Keyes:

“He had tried veganism and Catholicism, yoga and Pilates, Madison Avenue and Wall Street, faith and cynicism, fine arts and day trades. And still the emptiness echoed inside him like an existential tinnitus” – KL 538.

The story deals with themes of marriage, sexual abuse, the impact of one’s sexual history on the rest of life, abortion, life in politics, and the place faith in God has in all the above. I found the counseling sessions, where Will and Melanie are forced to face the dynamics of their relationship, interesting and informative in the way they show readers strategies for uncovering roots of marital dysfunction and dealing with the exposed issues.

I really wanted to give this book five stars, I enjoyed it that much. But as the story progressed, the antics of Carrie put me off. The cavalier manner her trampy ways are portrayed (keeping two guys on the hook while she’s pregnant by a third) and then everything working out just fine for her, gave me pause. I felt that the authors’ depiction of her gives a sanitized version of sin and its consequences, thus the four stars.

I received Veil of Secrets as a gift from the publisher, Thomas Nelson, for the purpose of writing a review.

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