Bridgehampton author Sande Boritz Berger will be reading from and signing her brand new book The Sweetness at the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton (2478 Main Street) this Thursday, September 18 at 7 p.m.
The event marks Berger’s first in support of her book, which is set for widespread release through publisher She Writes Press next Tuesday, September 23.
Set during WWII, in both Brooklyn and the Nazi-created Jewish ghetto of Vilna, The Sweetness is a tenderly told parallel tale of hope, love, and the struggles of Rosha and Miri, two Jewish cousins living on separate continents, whose strikingly different lives promise to one day converge. Inspired by true events, the novel is about a girl swept away from her loved ones, and the Polish Catholic candlemaker who risks her own family’s safety to hide her.
In Brooklyn, Mira is the 18-year-old daughter of Charles Kane, a hard-working, successful manufacturer of women’s knitwear. Her cousin, 8-year-old Rosha Kaninsky, is the lone survivor of a family in Lithuania exterminated by the invading Nazis. Unbeknownst to her American relatives, Rosha survived, unlike nearly all the Jewish population of Vilna the summer of 1941. Desperate to save his daughter during a round-up of their shtetl, Rosha’s father thrust her into the arms of Marta Juraska, the Polish Catholic candlemaker, who hides the girl in a root cellar, putting her own children at risk. Marta’s husband, Avram─a Jew─is a member of the Judencrat, the council that answers to the Nazis. But when Avram is forced to make a moral choice, everything changes.
Meanwhile, the headstrong Mira—who dreams of escaping Brooklyn for career as a Hollywood fashion designer—finds her ambitions abruptly thwarted. Her father Charles, traumatized at the fate of his European relatives, will brook no dissent in safeguarding his family from the threats of the outside world. All the Kanes must challenge his unuttered but profoundly injurious survivor’s guilt. They endure the experience of the Jews who got out, revealing how even in the safety of our lives, we are profoundly affected by the circumstances of others.
“There were always stories, whispers and tears, and though I didn’t understand the funny language they spoke, I leaned into doorways to learn more,” Berger writes, explaining the the real life inspiration for The Sweetness in her acknowledgements. “And….I am forever grateful to you for sharing the richness of your heritage, even what was never intended for little ears.”
The Sweetness was a semi-finalist in Amazon’s annual Breakthrough Novel Awards and it has already received high praise as a “highly readable” period piece of vivid and exacting detail.
“Sande Boritz Berger has written an engrossing family tale filled with promise and hope while paying homage to the undercurrent of survivor’s guilt that can coexist beside that joy,” writes Judy L. Mandel, author of Replacement Child. “The Sweetness explores themes of morality, fate and death while illuminating how grief can affect even a generation removed, and even those thought to be spared,” she adds, calling the book “A great read that will touch your heart.”
After two decades as a scriptwriter and producer for Fortune 500 companies, Berger returned to her passion and began writing full time. She received an MFA in Writing and Literature from Stony Brook Southampton College where she was awarded The Deborah Hecht Memorial prize for fiction. Her essays and short stories have appeared in more than 20 anthologies, including Aunties: Thirty-Five Writers Celebrate Their Other Mother by Ballantine and Ophelia’s Mom by Crown. A mother of two daughters, Berger and her husband, Steve Berger, split their time between New York City and Bridgehampton.
To find out more about Sande Boritz Berger’s reading and book signing of The Sweetness this Thursday, call the Hampton Library (2478 Main Street, Bridgehampton) at 631-537-0015 or visit hamptonlibrary.org.
Visit sandeboritzberger.com to learn more about Sande Boritz Berger and read her short stories and poetry.