The Wholeness of a Broken Heart is the kind of book that makes you want to curl up and be left in solitude so that you can become fully immersed in the lives of its inhabitants. The story is told in the words of four generations of Jewish women, from the great-grandmother Channa, born in Koretz, Poland, in 1880, to the great-granddaughter Hannah, for whom she is named, living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in l989. Although the story focuses on particular generations of Jewish mothers and daughters, it transcends these cultural boundaries to include women's relationships in all cultures.
The story centers around Hannah and her relationship with her mother, which was intensely intimate until a casual comment catapulted them into irreparable separation. Hannah struggles with this loss, relying on the comfort and insight of her grandmother to help her survive. As we go back and forth through time, we discover the secrets and events that make this family of women both weak and strong, passive and domineering, depressed and joyful.
The stories involve you in the ties that bind these women together and the struggles that drive them apart. Katie Singer's style is engaging, and the tales are colorfully laced with the Yiddish language, which makes for a poignant expression of the lessons and emotions that are passed down through the generations. These Yiddish expressions create a special intimacy not typically found in modern life, where we so often lack the right words to convey our feelings. The title itself comes from an old Yiddish proverb, Es is nitto a gantsere zach vi ah tsiprochene harts, There's nothing more whole than a broken heart. This book, however, makes one's heart full with the knowledge that love and family, while often the cause of much heartache, are ultimately the very things that make us whole again. Lorraine Rose is a writer and psychotherapist in Washington, D.