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 Manana--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"
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-02-11
- Reviewer: Staff
When Elaine Greenstein stumbles on an old business card in her mother's papers, she wonders if it might be the key to finding her twin sister, Barbara, who disappeared at the age of 18. But this pleasantly sturdy drama is not in any hurry to solve the mystery. Even-keeled despite a tumultuous narrative, the book slides back to Elaine's formative years and progresses in stately fashion. The scene is early-20th-century Boyle Heights, a diverse Los Angeles neighborhood where the Greensteins and their Jewish neighbors have formed a thriving community. Elaine explores their struggles as a young girl, the immigration experiences of her mother and grandfather, her free-spirited aunt's attempts to live on her own terms, and her cousin's courageous union organizing. Steinberg's (Death in a City of Mystics) careful and satisfying characterizations extend to neighbors and friends as well, creating a vibrant portrait of community. Moving alongside these personal stories are larger historical forces, notably the Depression and, as Elaine enters her turbulent teenage years, the looming threat of war. Elaine's relationship with her sister, complicated by a messy love triangle, comes to a head amid global upheaval. Nearly 70 years later, as she remembers and reexamines her past, Elaine hopes that buried wounds might finally be healed if she can only find her twin sister. (Feb.)
Clues hidden in memory
Though more than six decades have passed since Elaine Greenstein’s twin sister, Barbara, disappeared without a trace, the octogenarian heroine of author Janice Steinberg’s new novel, The Tin Horse, is still reeling from the heartbreak endured by her fractured family circa 1939. 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.
Set in the historically Jewish neighborhood of Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, the chronology of the story begins in the present day, as Elaine is packing up a lifetime of long-forgotten family memorabilia in preparation for her move to a retirement community. When she inadvertently stumbles across a clue to her missing sister’s whereabouts, Elaine—a retired civil rights attorney—joins forces with a young Ph.D. student, Josh, whose dissertation research dovetails serendipitously with the elderly woman’s determination to unravel the mystery of her twin’s disappearance.
While the belated search for Elaine’s missing sister drives the plot of The Tin Horse, the grace and rhythm of the novel are provided by its poignant portrayal of the messiness of sibling rivalry, young love and economic hardship, something that wreaks havoc within even loving families. Indeed, perhaps the most deftly written and mesmerizing chapters of the novel are those that are told in flashback, from Elaine’s dignified grandfather Zayde’s double life as the neighborhood bookmaker, to her mother’s harrowing childhood exodus from Romania. Each Greenstein has a dramatically disparate personal narrative of their family’s shared history, reminding readers that in the end, all we have are our memories.