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The Golden Willow: The Story of a Lifetime…
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The Golden Willow: The Story of a Lifetime of Love (2009)

by Harry Bernstein

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Published in 2009, THE GOLDEN WILLOW was the last installment of Harry Bernstein's moving memoir trilogy, which began with his poverty-stricken childhood in England (THE INVISIBLE WALL, 2007) and continued with his adolescence and young adult years in Chicago and New York City (THE DREAM, 2008). What is perhaps most astounding about these books is that the first was written when Harry was 96 years old, adding a novelty aspect to the book, after a lifetime spent trying to get noticed and published.

In this volume we get a look at Harry and Ruby's long (67 years) marriage - the child-rearing years with their two children, his various jobs: a "reader" for various film studios, and then an editor and writer for trade magazines, and then their retirement years. And during all these years, Harry banged out short stories published in all those now-defunct "little magazines" and journals, trying to find success as a fiction writer. He also wrote several unpublished novels. So he could hardly be called an overnight success - a novelty, okay. But he'd certainly served a long apprenticeship. And he might well have been a one-book wonder had he listened to a clueless agent, who told him, when Harry told him about a second book he was working on (THE DREAM) -

"No, thanks. Be satisfied with what you've got, and remember, it isn't often that a publisher will take a chance on a first book by an author in his nineties."

What a jerk. Thank goodness, Harry didn't listen to him. Because THE DREAM was every bit as good as THE INVISIBLE WALL, if not quite as successful. This one, THE GOLDEN WILLOW, gives us, as Paul Harvey used to say, "the REST of the story." And it is, in many ways, a heartbreaking ending, as Harry tells of the death of his beloved Ruby and how devastated he was at losing her. Writing these books became a kind of grief therapy for him, especially this last one. It is, sadly, probably the weakest of the three books, mostly because it becomes a bit redundant. But its descriptions of the loneliness of being the one left, and the pains and humiliations of old age are right on the mark, and Harry is brutally frank about these things.

The true irony of these three beautiful memoirs, as Harry himself admits, is that if Ruby hadn't died, he probably would never have written them, and then when he had, his greatest sorrow was that she was not there to share it all with him.

Harry Bernstein died in 2011 at the age of 101. But he lives on in these three books. This man was a Writer with a capital W. All three are highly recommended. ( )
  TimBazzett | Jan 8, 2014 |
The book was about Harry's love for Ruby, and it did express his love--70 years of marriage. On the other hand, I wanted to scream get a job. He supported her minimally, while he waited to become a great and famous writer. It didn't happen until after she died and he was in his 90's. They lived an interesting life in the time of the communist scare in the U.S., the civil rights movement, etc. Ruby, his wife, seems the more interesting person, and he doesn't develop her enough. ( )
  MarkMeg | Mar 18, 2012 |
I have finished reading The Golden Willow: The Story of a Lifetime of Love, by Harry Bernstein. It is the third book he has written (the previous books are The Invisible Wall, and also The Dream), and he is 99-years old, so it is quite the incredible feat!

I will not delve deeply into the story line of The Golden Willow, as I would then be giving much of it away. Suffice it to say that the memoir is one that reflects on Harry’s marriage to his wife, Ruby. It chronicles their life together, from their first meeting to their journey of love through the decades.

They fell in love at first sight, so to speak, at a dance, and that meeting took them through the trials and tribulations of marriage. They had a happy life together, at first living in a small rented room in Manhattan. From there they moved to Greenwich Village in order to be surrounded by those whose interests coincided with theirs…the cultural arts. Harry wanted to be a writer, and they both felt living within writers, painters, dancers, etc., might give him not only inspiration, but an advantage.

The Golden Willow is a lovely book, and one that is a testament to their marriage, and a tribute to Ruby. It is also a tribute to Harry’s determination to try to move forward after Ruby’s death, and to tell their story. It is illuminating, filled with humor, and with much poignancy. It is a lovely memoir and book to read. It is a memoir that will be a lasting legacy to their children, a legacy of undying love. Harry Bernstein has written another inspiring book/memoir, and one I recommend to everyone.
~~~~~~
© Copyright 2007 – All Rights Reserved – No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my express written consent/permission.

Sunday June 7, 2009 – 15th Sivan, 5769 ( )
  LorriMilli | Jun 21, 2009 |
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To Ruby and Charles and Adraenne
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To Ruby and Charles and Adraenne
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On the morning of my ninetieth birthday I awoke very early and to a rather strange experience.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345511026, Hardcover)

Harry Bernstein started chronicling his life at the age of ninety-four, after the death of his beloved wife, Ruby. In his first book, The Invisible Wall, he told a haunting story of forbidden love in World War I-era England. Then Bernstein wrote The Dream, the touching tale of his family’s immigrant experience in Depression-era Chicago and New York. Now Bernstein completes the saga with The Golden Willow, a heart-lifting memoir of his life with Ruby, a romance that lasted nearly seventy years.

They met at a dance at New York’s legendary Webster Hall, fell instantly and madly in love, and embarked on a rich and rewarding life together. From their first tiny rented room on the Upper West Side to their years in Greenwich Village, immersed in the art scene, surrounded by dancers, musicians, and writers, to their life in the newly burgeoning suburbs, Harry and Ruby pursued the American dream with gusto, much as Harry’s late mother would have wanted.

Together, through a depression, a world war, and the McCarthy era, through job losses and race riots and the joyous births of their two children, Harry and Ruby weathered much and shared an incredible love. But then the inevitable happened. One of them had to go first. When Ruby was ninety-one, she contracted leukemia and died. Alone for the first time in his life, Harry felt the loss acutely and terribly, and for a long while, despite continued good health, he was uncertain about whether he could go on without Ruby. It was then that he turned to the past for solace–and ended up fulfilling a lifelong dream of becoming a published author.

Delightful and hopeful, tender and moving, The Golden Willow is Harry’s tribute to his beloved Ruby, to their long, happy life together, to the impact her parting had on his heart and his soul, and to the surprises and unexpected pleasures that continue to await him.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:44 -0400)

The golden willow was the first tree we had planted when we came here to live, and Ruby and I had good reason for doing that. Only it was a secret that we kept to ourselves. Harry Bernstein started chronicling his life at the age of ninety-four, after the death of his beloved wife, Ruby. In his first book, The Invisible Wall, he told a haunting story of forbidden love in World War Iera England. Then Bernstein wrote The Dream, the touching tale of his familys immigrant experience in Depression-era Chicago and New York. Now Bernstein completes the saga with The Golden Willow, a heart-lifting memoir of his life with Ruby, a romance that lasted nearly seventy years. They met at a dance at New Yorks legendary Webster Hall, fell instantly and madly in love, and embarked on a rich and rewarding life together. From their first tiny rented room on the Upper West Side to their years in Greenwich Village, immersed in the art scene, surrounded by dancers, musicians, and writers, to their life in the newly burgeoning suburbs, Harry and Ruby pursued the American dream with gusto, much as Harrys late mother would have wanted. Together, through a depression, a world war, and the McCarthy era, through job losses and race riots and the joyous births of their two children, Harry and Ruby weathered much and shared an incredible love. But then the inevitable happened. One of them had to go first. When Ruby was ninety-one, she contracted leukemia and died. Alone for the first time in his life, Harry felt the loss acutely and terribly, and for a long while, despite continued good health, he was uncertain about whether he could go on without Ruby. It was then that he turned to the past for solaceand ended up fulfilling a lifelong dream of becoming a published author. Delightful and hopeful, tender and moving, The Golden Willow is Harrys tribute to his beloved Ruby, to their long, happy life together, to the impact her parting had on his heart and his soul, and to the surprises and unexpected pleasures that continue to await him.… (more)

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