By Miriam Karmel
(Milkweed Editions, Hardcover, 9781571310965, 208pp.)
Publication Date: March 2013
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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"Growing old is one of the most surprising things that has happened to her. She hadn't given it any thought. Then one day, she was eighty-five. Not just old, but an object of derision, pity. Is there any use explaining that she is still herselfalbeit a slower, achier, creakier version of the original?"
from Being Esther
Being Esther intimately explores the interior consciousness of an elderly Jewish woman who lives as much in the past as in the present.
Whereas the past includes pleasant memories of family, love and lust, the happy confines of marriage, and the rare occasions to break those confineslike taking a part-time job as a bookseller at Kroch's & Brentano'sthe present includes crossing out the names of the deceased in a phonebook, fending off attempts by her daughter to move into assisted living, daily check-ins with a neighbor, and the occasional outing. Not prone to self-pity, Esther is at moments lucid and then suddenly lost in a world which has disappeared along with many who had inhabited it.
Miriam Karmel's fiction debut brings understanding and tremendous empathy to the character of Esther Lustig, a woman who readers will not soon forget.
Miriam Karmel has worked professionally as a newspaper reporter and magazine editor, and most recently as a freelance writer specializing in medicine and health. Her journalism has appeared in AARP magazine and for many years in Minnesota Women's Press. Her fiction has won numerous regional prizes, and her stories have been published in Bellevue Literary Review, Minnesota Monthly, as well as anthologized in Milkweed's Fiction on a Stick (2008). She lives in Minneapolis, MN and Sandisfield, MA. Being Esther is her first novel.
"Being Esther is a small masterpiece, every detail unerring. I wanted Esther to move in next door so we could play two-hand bridge and mix drinks with names like South Side Sling or Not Your Aunt Nellie. I would coax her to tell me about the boys before Marty and about the Starrlights. In Esther, Miriam Karmel has created a character one will never forget nor ever stop loving..."
Faith Sullivan, author of The Cape Ann and Gardenias