Healing Jewish Books for Dark Winter Days
The Amen Effect: Ancient Wisdom to Mend Our Broken Hearts and World
by Rabbi Sharon Brous (Avery)
In this soulful book based on Jewish teachings, Brous offers advice both spiritual and practical for building community and working to heal the world. Central to her approach is the idea of showing up and being present for others both in difficult times and in celebration. One of the most influential rabbis in America, Brous, who founded the innovative Ikar community in Los Angeles, is a voice of humanity, empathy and hope.
Love Atop a Keyboard: A Memoir of Late-Life Love
by Janet Silver Ghent (Mascot Books)
Like the popular reality show The Golden Bachelor, Silver Ghent’s memoir casts a positive spin on love and romance after 50. The author and journalist was divorced at 45 and, with comic timing, she describes singlehood—she joined choirs and attended singles events—understanding that no matter the outcome, she was gathering good material. At 56, through a personal ad in a Jewish newspaper, she met the man who would become her second husband. In this coming-of-aging story, she writes of friendships, deepening Jewish connections and an expanding family.
Stranger in the Desert: A Family Story
by Jordan Salama (Catapult)
After finding a genizah of sorts in his grandfather’s basement—a binder filled with fraying articles, photos and handwritten notes—American-born Salama begins to feel nostalgia for a world he never inhabited. His family had been uprooted every few generations, traveling from Inquisition-era Spain to Salonika to Damascus and then Buenos Aires. Salama, a journalist, goes to Argentina, where his grandfather had lived, to learn about his Syrian-born great-grandfather, a traveling salesman who traversed the Andes. It’s a work of self-discovery as well as Sephardi history.
The Curse of Pietro Houdini
by Derek B. Miller (Avid Reader Press)
Set in World War II Italy, this cinematic novel is inspired by actual events. Massimo, an orphaned boy left bloodied on a road-side, is found by a mysterious, charismatic man who calls himself Pietro Houdini. Pietro enlists Massimo in an art heist to rescue from the Nazis Renaissance masterpieces hidden in the historic Montecassino Abbey. The cast of characters resembles a modern version of Chaucer’s band of pilgrims—the boy, the art restorer who saves him, a nun, a cafe owner and murderer, a wounded German soldier and an injured mule named Ferrari.
Everything Is a Little Broken
by Rebecca Sugar (Post Hill Press)
Sugar’s debut novel opens with a taxi ride to a New York City hospital where a middle-aged woman arrives to find her ailing and beloved father. It’s a story of caregiving and loss as well as of family dynamics and renewed faith, with humor mixed in. The author understands dignity in aging and how we never fully lose those we love deeply.
Sandee Brawarsky is a longtime columnist in the Jewish book world as well as an award-winning journalist, editor and author of several books, including 212 Views of Central Park: Experiencing New York City’s Jewel From Every Angle.