The Tin Horse is a “first” in my books review list in three categories: It is the first fiction book that I’m writing and publishing a review for. It is the first book ever, that I was so intrigued to know how it ended, that after reading few chapters, I fast-forwarded to the end of the book to read the conclusion, and then went back to read the rest of story. I initially listened to the audio version of the book, which I borrowed from the library, then I purchased it on Amazon (audio and digital formats) for my children. I usually recommend to my family books that I enjoyed reading. This time I delivered a copy of the book directly to their cellphones and kindle devices, to increase the chances that they’ll listen to me and read it.
The Tin Horse is about a period when the Jewish nation went through major changes in a very short period of time: The exodus of the Jewish people from eastern Europe. The Holocaust. The creation of the State of Israel. The integration of the European Jewry in the American society with all the benefits and problems associated with it. It is also a story of two sisters falling in love with the same boy. All told from a personal point of view.
What made the story so interesting is that it is a suspense, detective-like, story told from the personal point of view of Elaine, a twin looking for her sister Barbara who ran away when she was eighteen years old, leaving no clues of her whereabout. The story goes back and forth between Elaine memories as a child and as a teenager growing up with her twin sister in a poor immigrant neighborhood, and her adventure as a retired accomplished lawyer looking for her sister.
I can’t explain what is different about this book compared to other “Jewish” fiction books that I read, to make me write a review for it. Perhaps because it didn’t feel like reading a fiction. The description of the real Jewish immigrant neighborhood Boyle Heights in Los Angeles in the early Twentieth Century is very detailed. Elaine’s family could have been real. The history of the period is real.
The book review on the Amazon website reads as follows:
“It has been more than sixty years since Elaine Greenstein’s twin sister, Barbara, ran away, cutting off contact with her family forever. Elaine has made peace with that loss. But while sifting through old papers as she prepares to move to Rancho Mañana—or the “Ranch of No Tomorrow” as she refers to the retirement community—she is stunned to find a possible hint to Barbara’s whereabouts all these years later. And it pushes her to confront the fierce love and bitter rivalry of their youth during the 1920s and ’30s, in the Los Angeles Jewish neighborhood of Boyle Heights.
Though raised together in Boyle Heights, where kosher delis and storefront signs in Yiddish lined the streets, Elaine and Barbara staked out very different personal territories. Elaine was thoughtful and studious, encouraged to dream of going to college, while Barbara was a bold rule-breaker whose hopes fastened on nearby Hollywood. In the fall of 1939, when the girls were eighteen, Barbara’s recklessness took an alarming turn. Leaving only a cryptic note, she disappeared.
In an unforgettable voice layered with humor and insight, Elaine delves into the past. She recalls growing up with her spirited family: her luftmensch of a grandfather, a former tinsmith with tales from the Old Country; her papa, who preaches the American Dream even as it eludes him; her mercurial mother, whose secret grief colors her moods—and of course audacious Barbara and their younger sisters, Audrey and Harriet. As Elaine looks back on the momentous events of history and on the personal dramas of the Greenstein clan, she must finally face the truth of her own childhood, and that of the twin sister she once knew.
In The Tin Horse, Janice Steinberg exquisitely unfolds a rich multigenerational story about the intense, often fraught bonds between sisters, mothers, and daughters and the profound and surprising ways we are shaped by those we love. At its core, it is a book not only about the stories we tell but, more important, those we believe, especially the ones about our very selves.
Advance praise for The Tin Horse
‘Steinberg, the author of five mysteries, has transcended genre to weave a rich story that will appeal to readers who appreciate multigenerational immigrant family sagas as well as those who simply enjoy psychological suspense.’—BookPage
‘Steinberg . . . has crafted a novel rich in faith, betrayal, and secrecy that explores the numerous ways people are shaped and haunted by their past. . . . A sweeping family saga reminiscent of the writing of Pat Conroy, where family secrets and flashbacks combine to create an engrossing tale of growth and loss. Highly recommended for fans of family drama and historical fiction.’—Library Journal
‘Steinberg’s quietly suspenseful novel is compelling by virtue of her sympathetic characters, vivid depiction of WWII-era Los Angeles, and pinpoint illuminations of poverty, anti-Semitism, family bonds and betrayals, and the crushing obstacles facing women seeking full and fulfilling lives.’—Booklist”