Modern Girls by Jennifer S. Brown


Book Blurb from

A dazzling debut novel set in New York City’s Jewish immigrant community in 1935…

How was it that out of all the girls in the office, I was the one to find myself in this situation? This didn’t happen to nice Jewish girls.

In 1935, Dottie Krasinsky is the epitome of the modern girl. A bookkeeper in Midtown Manhattan, Dottie steals kisses from her steady beau, meets her girlfriends for drinks, and eyes the latest fashions. Yet at heart, she is a dutiful daughter, living with her Yiddish-speaking parents on the Lower East Side. So when, after a single careless night, she finds herself in a family way by a charismatic but unsuitable man, she is desperate: unwed, unsure, and running out of options.

After the birth of five children—and twenty years as a housewife—Dottie’s immigrant mother, Rose, is itching to return to the social activism she embraced as a young woman. With strikes and breadlines at home and National Socialism rising in Europe, there is much more important work to do than cooking and cleaning. So when she realizes that she, too, is pregnant, she struggles to reconcile her longings with her faith.

As mother and daughter wrestle with unthinkable choices, they are forced to confront their beliefs, the changing world, and the fact that their lives will never again be the same….

My Review:

Nineteen year old Dottie Krasinsky has it all;  a great job in New York City, loving family, loyal friends, and a boyfriend. This great life may come undone because she is pregnant by another man. It is the 1930’s and there are very few options for a pregnant single woman. Dottie has not told her family and is beginning to panic.

Rose Krasinsky, Dottie’s mother, is a Russian immigrant. She is in her early forties and is raising her family in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. She finds herself unexpectedly pregnant and is keeping it a secret from her family. She thought she was done with the childbearing years so this is an unwelcome surprise.  She had planned to aid the war effort in Europe.

Rose becomes aware of Dottie’s pregnancy and is not happy. She wanted her to pursue a career in accounting and a baby will derail these plans.  Both women are carrying a heavy secret and are struggling with possible solutions.  Each must confront their problems as the story unfolds.  

The book is narrated in alternating voices between mother and daughter by chapter.  The characters are well developed and the relationship between mother/daughter is very realistic. You can feel the tension, frustration, love and concern that they have for one another. Beautifully documented, the author does a tremendous job of making you feel what it was like to live in New York City  in the 1930’s.

This is a debut novel by the author and I am hoping for a sequel.