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Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan by Ruth…
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Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan (2016)

by Ruth Gilligan

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At the turn of the century, when Ruth was eight, her mother, father and older sister emigrated from Lithuania, heading for America and hope of am better life. After a sea journey of many days they arrive, knowing little English, they think they hear the crew yelling New York, but alas they are saying Cork, and instead of America they have arrived in Ireland. In the fifties a young man is institutionalized after he quit speaking at his Bar Mitzvah, and present day a woman's Jewish boyfriend asks her to convert. So three different threads, an though within two long we can see where the second story of the young man intersects with the story of Ruth, for the longest time I couldn't see where the third story did, or why it was even necessary. Brilliant though, when it is revealed, and in fact is rather startling and sad.

The Jewish settlements in Ireland, which I freely admit to knowing nothing about, most making a life in a place where they hadn't intended to be, many wanting to leave but for the present stuck. Ruth though, and I loved her strength and determination, makes the most of what is given her, wanting to make this place her home. We learn a little of the struggles of these early Jews, the discrimination they faced while trying to hold on to their own identity and a little Irish history as well. Her story was by far my favorite, but the young Jewish man in the institution and the legless man who is his roommate, whose story he writes down, was well done as well.

Taken in totality this was an amazing book, told in a clear and concise voice, it leaves an impression. I very much enjoyed this novel and learned some history as well. So glad I decided to try this one and another author to watch for, see what she does next.

ARC from Netgalley. ( )
  Beamis12 | Jan 28, 2017 |
The ambitions of the novel mean that elements of the story are laboured by self-consciousness, such as a scene between Moshe and Lady Gregory, or the inclusion of footnotes in a book that otherwise forgoes formal experimentation. But Nine Folds is rich in plot, and full of characters whose stories have been neglected by an Irish literature that, for all its vibrancy and talent, has focused on the white Catholic (and often rural) experience. The novel looks to those on the margins of that brand of Irishness, while tackling serious issues such as displacement, belonging, cultural stereotyping and antisemitism with a light touch. At a moment when we are preoccupied with migration, it offers a sympathetic perspective on the difficulties of adjusting to life in a new place over two generations.
 
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In the bloodless light of the foyer she feels herself nothing but a stranger.
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Book description
At the start of the twentieth century, a young girl and her family emigrate from Lithuania in search of a better life in America, only to land on the Emerald Isle instead. In 1958, a mute Jewish boy locked away in a mental institution outside of Dublin forms an unlikely friendship with a man consumed by the story of the love he lost nearly two decades earlier. And in present-day London, an Irish journalist is forced to confront her conflicting notions of identity and family when her Jewish boyfriend asks her to make a true leap of faith. These three arcs, which span generations and intertwine in revelatory ways, come together to tell the haunting story of Ireland’s all-but-forgotten Jewish community. Ruth Gilligan’s beautiful and heartbreaking Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan explores the question of just how far we will go to understand who we really are, and to feel at home in the world.
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"At the start of the twentieth century, a young girl and her family emigrate from Lithuania in search of a better life in America, only to land on the Emerald Isle instead. In 1958, a mute Jewish boy locked away in a mental institution outside of Dublin forms an unlikely friendship with a man consumed by the story of the love he lost nearly two decades earlier. And in present-day London, an Irish journalist is forced to confront her conflicting notions of identity and family when her Jewish boyfriend asks her to make a true leap of faith. These three arcs, which span generations and intertwine in revelatory ways, come together to tell the haunting story of Ireland's all-but-forgotten Jewish community."--Amazon.com.… (more)

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