Find­ing your­self in fic­tion

The Jewish Chronicle - - JC SPECIAL -

HEN ES­THER Ehrlich grew up in the 1970s, she had only one overtly Jewish chil­dren’s book — Syd­ney Tay­lor’s All of a Kind Fam­ily. Now she has writ­ten Nest (Rock the Boat, £7.99), about a 1970s Jewish fam­ily liv­ing on very un-Jewish Cape Cod and cop­ing with the mother’s mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis. Ehrlich’s ortho­dox mother (a poet who her­self had MS) and sec­u­lar, un­bar­mitz­va­hed fa­ther sent their chil­dren to a sec­u­lar so­cial­ist Yid­dish school.

“Even though I grew up where there were other Jews, I still knew the feel­ing of be­ing on the out­side,” says Ehrlich. “As a Jewish kid, you’re just aware you’re dif­fer­ent. Choos­ing to put the Oren­steins on the Cape was a way of cap­tur­ing those feel­ings of oth­er­ness.”

Nest is not just set in the past, it feels 1970s through and through. There are ref­er­ences to the mu­sic, snacks and chil­dren’s books of the time (which have en­deared the book to adults who, like Ehrlich, grew up in the ’70s) and Ehrlich takes her time, del­i­cately build­ing the re­la­tion­ships be­tween Chip and her sis­ter, her par­ents and friends. Fright­en­ing things hap­pen to them but the world of the book still feels safe and in­no­cent, mak­ing this heart-warm­ing story

suit­able for ages 10 up. Es­ther Ehrlich

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