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Here Comes Mrs. Kugelman: A Novel by Minka…

Here Comes Mrs. Kugelman: A Novel (2005)

by Minka Pradelski

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Young Tsippy Silberberg is more than a little surprised when her aunt in Tel Aviv passes away and leaves her an inheritance. When she arrives to claim it, she's even more puzzled that it consists of an incomplete fish service in a suitcase. As she sits in her beach-side hotel room trying to puzzle out the meaning of having silverware to serve something she refuses to even eat, her journey gets even stranger with a knock on the door. Behind that knock is Mrs. Bella Kugelman, a Holocaust survivor like Tsippy's parents, who is determined to keep her hometown in Poland alive through stories that she insists on telling to Tsippy and anyone else who will listen. Much to her surprise, it's this odd and persistent woman and her stories that will help Tsippy unearth the meaning behind her aunt's bizarre bequest.

To get to the heart of things, Here Comes Mrs. Kugelman is kind of a weird book. Tsippy is a bizarre narrator prone to flights of fancy and impulsiveness that hardly make sense. Her bizarre diet centers on frozen vegetables for reasons that aren't entirely clear. The whole premise of an aged survivor materializing in her hotel room every day to tell stories of the old country regardless of whether Tsippy wants to hear them or not requires a healthy dose of suspension of disbelief. It's easy to see why Mrs. Kugelman is probably not a book that everyone is going to like. That said, I liked it quite a lot indeed.

Despite her oddities, Tsippy is an interesting character who has grown up in the shadow of her parents' silence over the terrible events of the Holocaust they survived. Her bizarre eating habits seemed to be grounded in a desperate need to get her emotionally repressed parents to say anything even if it was just to scold her for her increasingly bizarre behavior. I came to terms with odd Tsippy Silberberg as the story's primary narrator, but what I really loved were the stories Mrs. Kugelman came to tell Tsippy. Determined to keep her Polish town of Bedzin and its denizens alive long after the Holocaust destroyed it, Mrs. Kugelman is happy to tell anyone who will listen the stories of her childhood and the many characters that populated it. Her stories both satisfy Tsippy's hunger for some sense of her past and draw readers into the lives of mischievous kids, extremely religious adults, lovers, scam artists, businessmen, bakers and grocers and porters who populate an above-average small town that stood on the precipice of its own destruction and never knew.

Mrs. Kugelman's stories call to mind the sort of small-time legends that populate any town or even any one family, and Pradelski's choice to focus on the life of the town in its glory days before the horrors of the Holocaust came calling is a refreshing departure. Minka Pradelski is a sociologist who has spent considerable time exploring the psychological effects of the Holocaust on survivors, and her depiction of the very willful disconnect Tsippy's guilt-ridden father has made between the painful past and the promising future he hopes for his daughter definitely seems to spring from that knowledge. However, as Tsippy and Mrs. Kugelman's tale shows us, it might just be that the very stories survivors avoid are the ones that stand to heal a new generation. Here Comes Mrs. Kugelman is unexpectedly touching novel that shows the value of knowing our past even as we plunge into the uncertain future, and one that I would highly recommend if you don't mind reading a book that's just a bit outside the box. ( )
  yourotherleft | Dec 14, 2013 |
I am not sure that any review I write can do this book justice. I listened to the NPR review and it was explained that the author had spent decades studying the psychological effects of the Holocaust on survivors. This necessitated the interviewing of many people and one person told her not to forget the Polish town of Bedzin. She didn't and in this novel manages to bring the whole town alive.

The main character is a woman named Tsippy Silberberg and she finds out that a distant aunt has left her a strange inheritance. This starts the story in motion and when she goes to collect it in person she is confronted by a few strange occurrences, one of course being the mysterious Mrs. Kugelman. She insists on telling Tsippyr stories of the past, from her town and it is in this way that we meet the people of Bedzin.

This was a new slant on the Holocaust story, the author really brings these people alive. Of course, we know what is going to happen soon, but when these people are young they are just living their lives. Tsippy finds out things about herself and her family from Mrs. Kugelman and from this looks back at her past with her father and finally begins to understand. Tsippy herself has one strange obsession and it is managed with humor and pathos. This is a first novel and I just loved it. Loved the way the story is told and the fact that it has such a deeper meaning. ( )
1 vote Beamis12 | Oct 31, 2013 |
For a first novel, Minka Pradelski comes out running. This book, with a back story of some pretty funny stuff (only eating frozen food – frozen!!), takes us back to the 1940’s when Germany tried to rule the world.

Tsippy Silberberg inherits a fish service which is missing pieces. It is the perfect reason to break out of her self-imposed rut and travel a bit. After all, what could go wrong in Tel Aviv? Hah!

Barely into her hotel, Tsippy is “accosted” by a little old lady – Bella Kugelman. Bella has stories to tell and by God, Tsippy is going to listen. There isn’t a choice here. Soon Tsippy is familiar with Bedzin as it was before the war. The adults and children; the shops and schools and even the pets. Mrs. Kugelmam is a force in and of herself and she is the only person who knew Tsippy’s father as a child.

Told in first person by Tsippy you can laugh (guaranteed); cry (definitely) and think a lot but I know you will enjoy this one. ( )
  macygma | Sep 9, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I'm not sure how I Feel about Here Comes Mrs. Kugelman. It's certainly not what I expected. I imagined it would be a Holocaust novel depicting Poland in the pre-WWII years. Instead of a serious historical fiction, I found a book with a magical realism feel, and a cast of characters so numerous that it was hard to keep everyone straight. The narrator is Tsippy Silberberg, come to Tel Aviv to collect an inheritance. There, she encounters an old woman, Bella Kugelman, who appears out of nowhere and begins to dominate Tsippy's life with stories of her own childhhood in a small Polish community. The adventures of the quirky members of Bella's town are lighthearted and amusing on the surface, but there is often a dark undercurrent, reminding the reader that the Holocaust looms just around the corner. ( )
  JGoto | Jul 13, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Mrs. Kugelman delivers a quirky, endearing journey from Israel to pre-wartime Poland. Tsippy Silberberg travels from Germany to Israel to pick up a seemingly inconsequential inheritance from a distant Aunt. But the incomplete silver fish service she collects is only the first thing she gains in Israel. An odd old woman, Mrs. Kugelman, forces herself into Tsippy's hotel room and returns day after day to recount tales of her childhood town, Bedzen, Poland, upon an initially reluctant and annoyed Tsippy. But Mrs. Kugelman's stories prove to be so compelling that Tsippy becomes wrapped up in the experience of the small town's Jewish residents as World War II approaches. Author Pradelski focuses on the town and the townspeople of Bedzen and their day to day lives with gentle humor. The humanity of the town is the focus rather than the inhumanity of Hitler's approaching forces.

After getting used to its quirkiness- Tsippy's strange habits and Mrs. Kugelman's prickly demeanor- I loved this book. ( )
  elzbthp | Jun 30, 2013 |
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Minka Pradelskiprimary authorall editionscalculated
Boehm, PhilipTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Einen Monat nach dem Tod meiner Tante, genauer gesagt, drei Stunden nach der Testamentseröffnung, informierten mich meine Verwandten über Halinas Ableben.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805082123, Hardcover)

An enchanting novel of listening and telling, of the silence between Holocaust survivors and their children, and of the power of stories to mend broken bonds

When feisty young Tsippy Silberberg of the curious eating habits receives word from Tel Aviv that a distant aunt has left her a mysterious inheritance—an incomplete fish service in a battered brown suitcase—she decides to break her rigid routine and go collect it in person. But before she is even able to settle into her hotel room, an odd old woman bangs on her door and invites herself in. Her name is Bella Kugelman, and she is determined to talk.

And talk she does, with wondrous effect. Soon the room is filled with people—residents of the Polish town of Bedzin before the war, who now live on, if only in Mrs. Kugelman’s stories. Flirtatious girls and sly shopkeepers, rich industrialists and a family so poor that their necks are bent over from looking for coins—in tale after tale, a town magically returns to life, even as its grim future looms darkly. And under the thrall of Mrs. Kugelman’s words, Tsippy finally pieces together her aunt’s strange bequest, as well as her own place in the story unfolding before her.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:03 -0400)

Left the inheritance of an incomplete fish service by a distant aunt, Tsippy Silberberg finds her life transformed by the colorful residents of her family's Polish community, whose experiences are reflected by her aunt's bequest.

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