The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant
In real life, Linda Lavin (known to a certain generation as TV’s Alice, also known to others for her almost-half-century of on-stage success) isn’t quite as old as the titular Boston Girl, but she absolutely epitomizes the ideal narrator here. The year is 1985, and Addie Baum is about to tell her life story to her recently Harvard-graduated 22-year-old granddaughter: “… if you ask me to talk about how I got to be the woman I am today, what do you think I’m going to say?” You’re definitely going to want to lean in.
Born in 1900 as the youngest of three daughters of devout Jewish immigrants, Addie bears witness to vast changes – personally, politically, socially, historically. She breaks many of her parents’ impossible rules in order to make her own life, as she watches one older sister sever family ties, and the other wither away from her duty-bound choices. She falls for the wrong man but refuses to be victimized, declares independence, makes life-long friends, claims the love of her life, and establishes herself in a profession that most would have thought impossible. Beyond her life in Boston – the home city she never leaves – two world wars implode, a flu epidemic steals the most innocent of her family members, and all the while, she navigates each new challenge with determination, honesty, and not a little luck.
Reminiscent of her runaway bestselling 1997 fiction debut, The Red Tent, Anita Diamant takes on similar themes here of religion, tradition, class, gender inequity, and generational clashes – albeit centuries and continents apart – to create another unputdownable, empowering novel about living an authentic, fulfilling life. That said, be sure to go aural on this one: Lavin effortlessly, exactly, becomes Addie, breathing vibrancy onto every page and transforming a good book into a fully realized, mesmerizingly vivid experience.