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If I Told You Once by Judy Budnitz

If I Told You Once

by Judy Budnitz

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Sometimes the bandits attacked the soldiers and stole their military boots and jackets for themselves. Sometimes the soldiers wore shaggy fur cloaks to keep out the cold. Sometimes the wolves walked on their hind legs like men.

Ilana was born in a village in the forests of Eastern Europe, a place where creatures from myths and fairy tales were part of everyday life. But at the age of sixteen, tired of looking after her younger brothers and sisters, she left home for good. On her travels, she falls in love with a musician, and they decide to emigrate to a land of opportunity where the streets are paved with gold, although Ilana doesn't fall for that particular fairy-tale.

Although Ilana's early life is full of magic, adventure and a happy marriage, the lives of her daughter Sashie and grand-daughter Mara are much more constrained, and only her great-granddaughter Nomie is prepared to listen to the fantastical tales that Ilana tells about her family and life in the old country, and may finally be able to break the pattern.

Gloomier than your average magical realist story.

My mother, all three said, with a mixture of love and fear.
My brother, they said, with adoration.
My daughter, they said, their voices fearful and uncertain.
Mother. Brother. Daughter.
If you did not look you would think it was the same person every time.
( )
1 vote isabelx | Apr 5, 2015 |
Tiptree shortlist 1999. Didn't finish. The first third was dull "eastern-European peasants in the big forest", with a few half-hearted re-workings of old folk-tales, When if finally got to "one of the peasant goes to America and lives a totally unremarkable life" I gave up completely - about half-way through the book. The only thing that was vaguely SF&F was the folk tales, and the only thing that vaguely examined gender was that Bluebeard was a woman in one of them. Very disappointing for a Tiptree. ( )
  SChant | Jan 30, 2015 |
I love the style of this book, it is so clever and the imagery is amazing, the only problem is that it is missing some tension and is therefore not a real page turner and the ending was a little lack lustre, but all in all a great read! ( )
1 vote So1ange | Aug 25, 2009 |
A dark tale with undertones of myth and legend about 4 generations of women. First of all is Llana, born in eastern europe in a village wiped out long ago. She runs away to america, and settles there with her husband. What follows is the stories of her and her descendents' lives. ( )
1 vote Rubbah | Apr 9, 2009 |
Showing 5 of 5
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For my grandparents,
Samuel and Phyllis Robbins
Max and Rose Budnitz
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My family had lived in the same village for as long as anyone could remember.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312267517, Paperback)

Judy Budnitz's debut novel, If I Told You Once, introduces us to Ilana, a peasant girl living sometime at the beginning of the 20th century, in an unnamed European town so gray that "the color of an egg yolk is something of a miracle." This is a place as timeless and vivid as fairy tales, with figures from Russian folklore cast against real-world horrors like rape, cannibalism, and genocide.

Not to say that all is gloomy in Budnitz's world. That's certainly not the case for Ilana, who is inspired to escape her environs for America, the only place with an actual name in the whole book. Here, Ilana's voyage turns into an immigrant's story of poverty, love, and loss. Budnitz also abandons much of the magical realism that fuels her tale's first 100 pages. What replaces the nonstop parade of wonders is a narrative device--suddenly the story is told from the point of view of Ilana's daughter, Sashie; then by Sashie's daughter, Mara; and finally by Nomie, Mara's niece.

As each woman speaks her mind on the American experience and the wounds of the heart, what emerges is a multi-generational saga that not only traverses time and geography, but sensibility as well. The novel is so well paced that the four narrators manage to keep up with the times without having to lean too heavily on cultural benchmarks like world events, slang, and references to pop songs. Budnitz's method is much more integrated, gently conveying a sense of time and tradition slipping away.

Even as Sashie and Mara dismiss the magical stories of Ilana's youth as fabrications, these tales resonate through a novel of great mythic weight. Here, nothing less than the modern world is ushered into being through the voices of girls who become lovers, lovers who become wives, and wives who become mothers. Miracles, indeed. --Ryan Boudinot

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:38 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A family saga featuring three generations of women who have the same problem with their daughter as their mother had with them. It begins with a teenage Jewish girl who flees the pogroms of Eastern Europe for America.

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