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January 22, 2023

A Castle in Brooklyn by Shirley Russak Wachtel ~ a Review

by Susan Roberts

Spanning decades, an unforgettable novel about reckoning with the past, the true nature of friendship, and the dream of finding home.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of historical fiction novel A Castle in Brooklyn by Shirley Russak Wachtel
January 2023; Little A; 978-1662508745
audio, ebook, print (288 pages); historical fiction

A Castle in Brooklyn
starts during WWII but is more about the effect on the lives of two young men who managed to survive and move to America.  It covers their lives and the lives of their families from 1944 - 2010. Even though they had a good life in America, the loss of family and their daily struggle to survive the war were never far from their minds.

Jacob was hiding in a barn loft in Poland when Zalman showed up looking for a place to hide.  At the time Jacob was 18 and Zalman was 12 and they had both fled from their family homes to keep from being sent to the camps.  They were discovered by a Nazi patrol and taken out into the woods to dig their graves but managed to escape.  From that beginning chapter, the story jumps to 1952.  Both men have emigrated to the US.  Jacob is working at a factory and attending English classes in the evenings and Zalman is working on a farm out west.  When Jacob first saw Esther in class, he wanted her to be his wife.  After a brief courtship, they marry and he goes to work for her father.  Now he can finally build the house that he dreamed of during his days in hiding.  He asks Zalman to return to New York and help him build the house and to live with him and Esther.  For all three of them, it's a castle and their happy home.  When tragedy happens, their lives are totally changed.  Zalman returns to the farm to work,  Jacob starts working long hours on his job, and in her loneliness, Esther goes back to school to get a degree and become a teacher.  Zalman is totally estranged from his former friends and told to never come back but that doesn't stop Jacob from thinking about his friend and how far they've come in their lives.  His pain begins to affect his marriage with Esther and she realizes that even if they stay together, she needs to create her own life and find her own happiness.

This book was an interesting look at the effects of war that lasts for years.  It's a story about creating a family from those that you care about and about the importance of friendship and the final effects if that friendship is ended.  My only problem with the book was the introduction of several new people near the end who I didn't think added much to the story.  This is a debut novel for this author and based on my overall enjoyment of this book, I look forward to her future books.

Buy A Castle in Brooklyn at Amazon
(Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read for FREE)

Susan Roberts grew up in Michigan but loves the laid-back life at her home in the Piedmont area of North Carolina where she is two hours from the beach to the east and the mountains in the west.  She reads almost anything but her favorite genres are Southern Fiction and Historical Fiction.  


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