In the Russian Empire’s Pale of Settlement, Esther Leving, a brilliant young bibliophile, chafes at male dominance, religious dogma, and antisemitism. Bernard Garfinkle, a religious Jew and the son of a vodka distiller, hides a shameful secret—in a culture that worships books, he can’t read. Despite their literary and religious differences, they fall in love. Esther teaches Bernard to read, and he in turn builds her a bookshop. They start a family, but when ferocious pogroms target Russian Jews, they must confront violent oppression. How Estes, Bernard, and their friends respond will determine not only who they become but also whether they live.
Exploring the turbulent history that led to the migration of one-and-a-half million Jews from czarist Russia to America, Horodno Burning is a love letter to literature, freedom, and Jewish survival.
When he’s not cutting next winter’s firewood, pulling weeds in the garden, or off on an adventure with his wife, Patricia, Michael Freed-Thall is probably staring at his computer waiting for inspiration. When he retired after thirty years as a teacher and principal in Vermont schools, he took up writing. After seven years of false starts, rabbit-hole despair, and manic work in bursts of inspiration, Horodno Burning emerged. He started with pieces of family history—the arranged marriage between his great-great-grandparents, Estes and Bernard, at ages twelve and fourteen; escape from service in the czar’s army; pogroms; a harrowing trip from the Pale of Settlement to America; a reverence for books; and radical politics. Ultimately, those fragments and his overactive imagination led him to write this novel about literature, freedom, and Jewish survival.
Ellen Meeropol is the author of the novels Her Sister’s Tattoo, Kinship of Clover, On Hurricane Island, House Arrest, and The Lost Women of Azalea Court, forthcoming in 2022. Her work has been honored by the Sarton Women’s Prize, The Women’s National Book Association, and the Massachusetts Center for the Book. Recent essay publications include Lilith, Ms Magazine, LitHub, Guernica, and The Writers Chronicle. She lives in Northampton, MA.
In the Russian Empire's Pale of Settlement, Esther Leving, a brilliant young bibliophile, chafes at male dominance, religious dogma, and antisemitism. Bernard Garfinkle, a religious Jew and the son of a vodka distiller, hides a shameful secret-in a culture that worships books, he can't read. Despite their differences, they fall in love.
"Meeropol succeeds in creating and sustaining the kind of tension we expect to find in a mystery novel...Her Sister's Tattoo is all about a family with a multigenerational passion for political activism, but the narrator's voice is always clear and calm.