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Holding My Breath by Sidura Ludwig

Holding My Breath (2007)

by Sidura Ludwig

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Holding My Breath, a first novel by Sidura Ludwig, is a coming of age story set in the North End of Winnepeg, Canada, spanning from the 1950’s and into the 70’s. Told from the perspective of Beth Levy, the book chronicles the life of a young Jewish woman struggling to find her identity and the delicate balance between living up to family expectations while trying to follow one’s dreams.

Ludwig provides the reader with insight into the overwhelming and suffocating sense of duty and responsibility placed upon the shoulders of a young woman growing up in a Jewish community (or any community, perhaps) during that particular period of time. Rather than following her dreams of studying astronomy, Beth is encouraged to stay in Winnepeg and take over the family business and, above all else, become a wife and mother.

Ludwig succeeds in providing a sense of place about the insular world that Beth inhabits, revolving around her home, her aunt’s apartment and the family pharmacy. The cast of women in Beth’s life are well developed – her mother, Goldie, who emphasizes the importance of family and community responsibility; beautiful and rebellious aunt Sarah, whom Beth idolizes; and eccentric aunt Carrie who never marries and lives in the past.

There were a few areas that potentially could have deserved further development. As the only Jew on a softball team, Beth strives to make sure her last name is not placed on the team t-shirt. This was the first and only mention of Beth being self conscious about her Jewish heritage. I was left wandering about the significance of this episode in the story as a whole. Beth also has several friends that flit in and out of the story, but we never fully get to know them.

But, all in all, a good debut novel. I will look forward to reading more from Sidura Ludwig.

[Reviewed as an advance review copy as part of Book Browse's First Impressions program] ( )
  scofer | Jun 8, 2008 |
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For my grandmothers
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When my parents, Goldie and Saul Levy, got married in 1947, there was no gown.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307396223, Hardcover)

In her beautifully wrought debut, Holding My Breath, author Sidura Ludwig crafts a bold yet tender coming-of-age tale of family, dreams, and the will to follow one’s heart.

The only child of a Canadian pharmacist and his wife, Beth Levy grows up with the understanding that expectations can develop early in people’s lives, “even before they are born.” With that, the little girl senses a responsibility to become the narrator of her family’s history, piecing together snippets of conversation, half-told stories, and intimations that waft throughout her Manitoba homestead—her aunt Carrie’s resolve to never marry, her grandmother’s static grief over her deceased husband, the wanderlust of her young and vivacious aunt Sarah, and the death of her uncle Phil during World War II.

But what she believes and what is true are as disparate as the three strong Jewish women that occupy Beth’s house, life, and heart. Her mother, Goldie, the oldest sister, harbors a desire for social status that only results in a tacit disappointment, that nothing, not even her daughter, can assuage. Carrie, the middle one, possesses a gentle nature that masks a tragic countenance. The youngest, Sarah, still a teenager, stands poised to take on the world.

While Beth seeks out the nurturing comfort of Carrie, who keeps Uncle Phil’s memory alive and bestows upon Beth his love of the stars and planets, it is the rebellious spirit of Sarah that most entices the girl. As Beth matures into a young woman, the combination of her aunts’ influences pits the old world of her mother’s strictures against a new one of exploration and escape. This internal conflict will force Beth to make a difficult choice.

With a voice as distinct as it is compelling, Holding My Breath celebrates the bonds of family and its reassuring traditions as it affirms the uniqueness of the individual on uncharted paths.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:03 -0400)

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