I have to admit that I picked this book because I really liked the picture on the cover. Who wouldn’t? The little girl looks so carefree. The story begins with seven-year-old Gigi. She’s an only child who is mostly ignored by her parents. But Gigi has a grandma that loves her to pieces, and tells her that she can be “the good nearby”. Whatever is going wrong in the world, she can be the “good” that God put in someone else’s life.
The book jumps back and forth from her childhood to adulthood. She endures a miserable marriage to a man who treats her like garbage. Then some other women who care about her come into her life. They are a blessing to her, and in the end she blesses them in an unusual way.
The themes of domestic abuse and supportive friendship run side by side throughout the book. The love of a grandmother and her strong faith in God also were a major part of the story. The novel reminded me that each one of us has the ability to share the love of Jesus with those around us.
This short biography is a fun, quirky read. The author’s grandmother, Tonia, left Russia in 1923 to relocate to Palestine. The book tells of the extended family’s pioneer life in the settlement of Nahalal. The story jumps back and forth between recollections of aunts and uncles and cousins, and tales of Tonia herself. She was fanatical about housekeeping, to the degree that her daughter often missed part of the school day because the ritual floor-scrubbing must be done until there was no speck of dirt in the mop bucket. (These days we would diagnose her as having OCD – obsessive compulsive disorder.)
One relative, Sam, chose to live in the United States, and Tonia never quite forgave him for leaving. At some point Sam, probably trying to make amends, found the most expensive vacuum cleaner he could buy, and had it shipped across the world to Tonia. It was the first vacuum cleaner, or sweeper as they called it, in the settlement, and was received with great awe and wonder. The tale of the vacuum is told in little segments sandwiched between humorous stories of family life.
Uncle Yitzhak did not tarry. He pulled away the sack and exposed Grandma Tonia’s sweeper to the eyes of the village. Jaws dropped. Eyes popped. Not everyone understood what they were seeing; there were those who thought this was some new kind of pesticide sprayer or a particularly elaborate milking machine of uniquely American invention, some automatic American milking machine that would follow cows through meadows. However, most of those present understood at once that this was yet another of those capitalist luxuries of the very worst kind, whose sole purpose is idleness and pampering. The bright glare from the chrome, the curvaceous body, the large wheels that attested to a fear of hard work – all these could not possibly coexist with the moshav constitution and its values, and the village comrades gritted their teeth, returned to their senses, and suppressed with iron fists whatever desire the object aroused.
Brit has just gotten her driving permit, and is itching to get behind the wheel. When her parents go out of town and leave her with her grandmother, she finds the opportunity. Nannie is trying to get to her 65th high school reunion, along with her dearest friends. So Brit ends up being the designated driver for the senior ladies, with mishaps along the way. By the end of the road trip, she and Nannie know each other much better. This is a gem of a little book that you can read in an evening.
“When Brit and her parents got to Nannie’s house that morning, Nannie was standing outside in the rain, holding her handbag and looking around the front yard as if she were shopping at the mall…
Brit’s mother shouted to penetrate Nannie’s deafness. “We’re early, Mother! I’m worried about traffic. Here’s Brit.”
“I told you I cannot keep Brit this week,” said her grandmother.
“Nannie!” said Brit, hurt.
“I reminded you twice,” yelled Brit’s mother. “We’re spending two weeks in Alaska and Brit’s staying with you.”
“And twice,” said Nannie, trembling, “I explained that I cannot take care of Brit. I have plans.”
“You’re eighty-six,” muttered Brit’s mother. “You don’t have plans.”