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The Little Bride
WHEN 16-YEAR OLD Minna Losk journeys from Odessa to America as a mail-order bride, she dreams of a young, wealthy husband, a handsome townhouse, and freedom from physical labor and pogroms. But her husband Max turns out to be twice her age, rigidly Orthodox, and living in a one-room sod hut in South Dakota with his two teenage sons. The country is desolate, the work treacherous. Most troubling, Minna finds herself increasingly attracted to her older stepson. As a brutal winter closes in, the family’s limits are tested, and Minna, drawing on strengths she barely knows she has, is forced to confront her despair, as well as her desire.
For Book Groups
Let Anna know if you'd like her to call in for an author Q&A. When schedules align, she loves to talk with book clubs. She's also happy to send signed book plates to your group.
Just want some juicy material to get your conversation off to a great start?
Use this printable synopsis, Q&A, and question guide to kickstart your book club discussions.
Stories Untold: Jewish Women Pioneers: a wonderful website featuring the quilts of artist Andrea Kalinowski and first-hand accounts from the women themselves.
The Alliance Jewish Farming Colony, Past and Present: a fascinating collection of information and reminiscences from a long-survived Am Olam community
Sod Jerusalems: an entertaining history of Jewish farming colonies on the Kansas frontier.
Yiddish Book Center: a great resource for all things Yiddish
“Minna is a terrifically complex heroine: a little snobby,
a little selfish and wholly sympathetic.”
- The New York Times
“A lush, gorgeous first novel. Immerse yourself in its world.”
– Irina Reyn
Author of What Happened to Anna K.
“This mythic rendition of the American immigrant narrative...finds the wondrous in the ordinary and vividly depicts the complex collisions between the Old World and the New.”
– MORE Magazine (October Book Club pick)
“Intensely imagined...an elegantly written pocket of forgotten history.”
– Audrey Niffenegger
New York Times bestselling author of The Time Traveler's Wife
“Emotionally honest...A fascinating...page-turner.”
– USA Today
The Story behind the little bride
The Little Bride may be set in the 1880s, but it began in the most contemporary of ways. I was Googling myself one day – yes, I admit it – when I came upon another Anna Solomon who was featured on this great little website called “Stories Untold: Jewish Women Pioneers.” I thought, Jewish women pioneers? Jewish women driving wagons, roping cattle? I’d never heard of such a thing. I started researching these women, trying to find out how and why they came to live in the American West. Some had come with their husbands and families, but some had come to America as mail-order brides, having little to no idea of what they were getting into – and one of these, Rachel Bella Calof, had written her story. When I came to a passage in which she describes the “Look” she was given back in Russia – that is, the examination one had to undergo before becoming a bride – when I read her words, “They inspected me like a horse,” well, I shuddered. But I also knew I’d found a story I needed to write. And my book begins there, as my protagonist, Minna Losk, endures her own Look in a basement in Odessa before she’s sent to America as a mail-order bride.
At its heart, The Little Bride is a story about Minna’s coming of age. It’s about her longing for family, and her struggle between duty and desire. It’s a love story. But it’s also set against the real historical backdrop of the Am Olam movement, a little known Jewish-American experiment in the 1880s and 90s in which wealthier, assimilated Jews decided to “help” the poorer immigrants who were flooding many cities at that time by giving them the money and tools they needed to head West. This scenario fascinated me. I grew up as one of the only Jews in my New England hometown of Gloucester, Massachusetts, and I’ve always been drawn to stories about people living in places where they don’t seem to belong. I loved researching and imagining the challenges these Jewish pioneer women faced. Their families hadn’t been allowed to own land back in Europe; how were they going to survive as farmers? How would they keep kosher? How would they take their ritual mikvah baths – or would they? And for Minna, who’s spent most of her young life feeling like an outsider, how would she find a way to belong?
It’s a question we all face, at one time or another, whether we have left our country, our childhood home, or simply our block. And it’s this experience – the discomfort, the fear, the possibility, the hope of being a stranger in a strange land – that I got to explore as I wrote The Little Bride. It felt like a gift, spending that time with Minna as she made her slow way toward knowing other people, and letting them know her. And now it feels like a gift to watch the book make its own way into readers’ minds and hearts. Thank you for reading.
more Reviews & interviews
YidLit podcast with Anna up now at The Forward
Anna talks with Allison Yarrow about the book, the history-behind-the-book, “women's fiction,” and more. Listen now.
with Erika Dreifus Read here.
Printer's Row pick
Linda Bubon, owner of Chicago's iconic Women and Children First bookstore, recommends The Little Bride in The Chicago Tribune's Printer's Row.
Author Julie Wu reviews The Little Bride as one of three books whose “morally flawed heroes... ring uncomfortably true.”
Hadassah Magazine Review
“[An] imaginative feat that introduces Anna Solomon as a daring and talented novelist...” Full review here.
The Little Bride one of 2011's Best Adult Books for Teens
Selected by School Library Journal.
The Little Bride makes The Millions' A Year in Reading
Selected by the amazing Eleanor Henderson - author of TEN THOUSAND SAINTS - along with Charles McLeod's AMERICAN WEATHER. Full entry here.
“...Not only an incredibly crafted page turner but a clutch in the gut.” Read on.
Portland Book Review, Read here.
The Little Bride is a Paris Review staff pick, Check out the listing.
Lovely review in School Library Journal
“Rich in language and detail... Solomon turns her extensive research into fascinating, page-turning historical fiction.” Full review here.
Josh Rolnick profiles Anna and The Little Bride for The Millions. Is my book Jewish? What does that question even mean? Provocative piece: read here.
Brown Alumni Magazine
“Oy, Pioneers!” Click here.
A thoughtful, thorough review in The Forward, Click to read.
“A tale of hope, freedom and following one’s own path.” Click for more.
“Emotionally honest...A fascinating...page-turner.” Read full review.
High Country News
includes The Little Bride on its list of “Fall Books for the Sweetly Socked In.”
“Like...Jonathan Safran Foer and Dara Horn...[A] wondrously strange story of Jewish immigration.” Full review here.
The New York Times
“Minna is a terrifically complex heroine: a little snobby, a little selfish and wholly sympathetic.” Read full review here.
WBUR’s Radio Boston
Tablet: The Little Bride as 'Unsung History'
Read Sara Ivry's piece here.
“A fascinating debut... Riveting... Solomon's prose is bold and often gritty, and she creates complicated, surprising characters that completely defy expectations.” Full review here.
A page-turner... Highly recommended for those who appreciate exceptional historical fiction. Full review here.
List of the most hotly anticipated books for the rest of 2011. The Great Second-Half 2011 Book Preview