Holding My Breath
Shaye Areheart (Crown), Aug 2008, $23.00
As a child after hearing the daring exploits of her late Uncle Phil who died flying a plane in Africa during WW II (several years before she was born), Canadian Jew Beth Winnipeg wants to become initially an aviator but then an astronaut. Her parents assume she will outgrow that childish whim as women, Canadian and Jews mean three strikes and your out. However, her life in Winnipeg changes abruptly when her maternal grandmother suddenly dies. Her mom Goldie takes in her younger siblings. Thus as Beth starts elementary school, she suddenly has two older “sisters” with dreams of their own.
Teenage Sarah wants to go either to Hollywood or Broadway as she dreams of becoming an actress or a singer. Reticent Carrie who vows no husband ever pushes her younger niece to go for her desires. Meanwhile Beth’s parents want her to marry a Jew and raise a family in Winnipeg as her mother wants to reach the pinnacle of Manitoban social strata and believes her daughter through marriage is the ticket.
This is an interesting Canadian mid twentieth century historical tale that affirms life goes on whether one faces death, illness, anti-Semitism or abuse. The problem with strictly adhering to let’s move on is that the trauma ends abruptly without deep lasting consequences. This is a charming somewhat compelling family drama as Sidura Ludwig provides a fascinating look at growing up Jewish in Manitoba in the 1950s and 1960s.