The Boston Girl is a classic tale of a first generation American woman in the early 1900s trying to start a better life. Addie Baum, an ambitious and likeable Jewish woman now in her eighties, tells the story of her youth to her twenty-two year old granddaughter. Her misadventures in a world unimaginable to her family are touching and amusing, though a little too familiar. At its core, this is a historically based coming of age novel intended for adults about the search for knowledge, love and self.
I rate this book a seven out of ten mostly due to its predictability. I had high expectations for The Boston Girl and it wasn’t as intellectually stimulating or as challenging a literary read as The Red Tent. While The Boston Girl is a satisfying and pleasant story, and easily finished in one or two sittings, its true appeal is the relatable characters. Whether you see your grandmother in Addie’s character, you have roots in the Boston area, you went to an all-girls school, or you yourself are a first generation immigrant, there are several threads with which readers will identify.
Those who enjoyed this novel might also like Brooklyn by Colm Toibin, in which a young Irish woman is relocating to the new world to forge a better life. Recently turned into an Oscar nominated movie, Brooklyn is sure to have a waiting list for the foreseeable future, so in the meantime you could also try The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult. Also told from the perspective of an elderly Jewish woman talking to her granddaughter about her youth, it is much deeper, with the protagonist sharing her experiences of the Holocaust and how she survived. Like all of Picoult’s books, it is well written, thought provoking and will resonate with its reader long after it’s finished.