When Ida and her daughter Bessie flee a catastrophic pogrom in Ukraine for America in 1905, they believe their emigration will ensure that their children and grandchildren will be safe from harm. But choices and decisions made by one generation have ripple effects on those who come later–and in the decades that follow, family secrets, betrayals, and mistakes made in the name of love threaten the survival of the family: Bessie and Abe Weissman’s children struggle with the shattering effects of daughter Ruby’s mental illness, of Jenny’s love affair with her brother-in-law, of the disappearance of Ruby’s daughter as she flees her mother’s legacy, and of the accidental deaths of Irene’s husband and granddaughter.
A sweeping saga that follows four generations from the tenements of Brooklyn through WWII, from Woodstock to India, and from Spain to Israel, How to Make a Life is the story of a family who must either deal with their differences or cut ties with the people who anchor their place in the world.
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PRAISE AND RECOGNITION:
“An engaging and heartfelt portrayal of intergenerational trauma and hope.”―Kirkus Reviews
“How to Make a Life is a sharp historical novel whose panoptic view of family relationships makes its secrets, estrangements, and reconciliations satisfying.”―Foreword Clarion Review
“. . . an immigrant story that will delight readers interested in how the seed of tragedy in one life takes root to produce hope in the future. Its a full-bodied story that will attract novel readers looking for a read both epic and well grounded in both adversity and recovery.”―Midwest Book Review
“How to Make a Life: A Novel by Florence Reiss Kraut is a beautifully written historical novel that explores family themes and the challenges of emigration. . . . The prose is gorgeous, the narrative voice compelling and hugely observant. The relationships are well-handled and they feel real to readers. There are pathos, realism, and humanity infused in the writing and I found it easy to relate to the characters. How to Make a Life: A Novel is a spellbinding family saga with strong shades of history; it is engrossing and fast-paced.”―Readers’ Favorite
“The world of richly drawn characters in How to Make a Life transported me on a compelling emotional journey. In a story that brings the twentieth century to life, the powerful need to assimilate threatens the very bonds that ground an immigrant family with a sense of identity as four generations adapt to a culture that reinvents itself with every decade.”―Stephanie Lehmann, author of Astor Place Vintage
“Florence Reiss Kraut’s rich, gutsy, and poignant novel, How to Make a Life, is the saga of four generations of an immigrant family held together by the legacy of trauma and the loyalties of succeeding generations. All the challenges of any real family are woven through this complex story. Kraut’s superb writing and deeply drawn characters, and her faithful evocation of distinct places and eras over the whole of the 20th century, keep the reader grounded and engaged.”―Barbara Stark-Nemon, author of award-winning novels Hard Cider and Even in Darkness
“How to Make a Life grabs by the throat and heart from page one. It parallels the gut-wrenching horrors of war and mental illness and the extraordinary and ordinary struggles and sacrifices family makes to survive. Our great-grandparents, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, great-grandchildren, spouses, in-laws―family―are the reasons we are who we are, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.”―Patricia Dunn, senior director of The Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College and author of Rebels by Accident
“A moving novel of four generations of an immigrant family whose characters are so real I cannot forget them.”―Tessa Smith McGovern, author of London Road Linked Stories and host/producer of BookGirl TV
“Florence Kraut has written a sensitive and compelling multigenerational novel that begins with tragedy and ends with hope. Each chapter traces a family member who erases the scars of history’s indelible mark with courage, determination, faith, and love. A wonderful read.”―Marsha Temlock, author of The Exile and Your Child’s Divorce: What to Expect; What You Can Do
“How to Make a Life is a compelling and inspirational novel. It applauds perseverance, connection and compassion over trauma, separation, and change. Details have a way of creating potency, and the beautiful descriptions in Ms. Kraut’s novel brings every character alive. Her images and painterly descriptions inspired me to write about my own family. When stories inspire readers’ creativity, you are in the hands of a empathic and evocative writer. I could not put this book down.”―June Gould, PhD, author of The Writer in All of Us and IWWG Writing Workshop Leader
“A novel about family itself―how to exist after unimaginable pain, acts of courage, secrets buried and revealed. . . . Emotionally honest, rich, and deeply empathetic, this is a book for all of us nurtured in the tumult and soil of family.”―Marlena Maduro Baraf, author of At the Narrow Waist of the World
“Florence Reiss Kraut has crafted a literary miracle . . . Her experience as a family therapist is evident throughout the book, especially in her depiction of Ruby, who struggles with psychosis. The impact on family is as close a rendering of this particular challenge as any I have read―brilliant.”―Jill Edelman Barberie, MSW, LCSW, author of This Crazy Quilt: Parenting Adult Special Needs One Day at a Time
“The years this author worked as an MSW social worker and clinician are particularly evident in the thought processes of Bessie’s oldest daughter Ruby, who suffers from schizophrenia. I worked for many years as a psychiatric nurse and I’ve never read a better character description of the trauma and tribulations that this disease can cause to individuals and families. This novel will appeal to anyone interested in family epics with unexpected plot twists and unforgettable characters. It demonstrates the power of family love, forgiveness, and resiliency.”―Story Circle Book Reviews