The Tin Horse
This beautifully written novel, spanning from the 1920s to the present day, tells the story of several generations of a large Jewish family in California. The narrative alternates between the current life of Elaine Greenstein, who is now in her 80’s, and her past, beginning with her childhood in a suburb of Los Angeles. Elaine’s twin, Barbara, is her best friend and foe. Opposite in temperament, Barbara is the vainer, fun seeking, impulsive sister, while Elaine is more serious, brainy, and mindful. We read about close yet complicated relationships between children, parents, and grandparents, aunts, and nieces. We learn about the hardships of life in the old country and immigration to America. We discover that some family stories are often told while others are kept hidden. The twins vie for their mother’s love and for a neighborhood boy. When Barbara goes missing at age eighteen, this tale evolves into a mystery whose solution can only be partially solved at the end. The author explores what it takes to fulfill one’s personal vision and describes how it feels to look back on a long life’s experiences. Steinberg paints the locales vividly and the story and dialogue flow well. This interesting and easy read opens up a view on Jewish life in California before and after World War II.
JBC Book Clubs Discussion Questions
In her blog posts for JBC, Janice Steinberg revealed that the inspiration for this book was a scene from Raymond Chandler's where Det. Phillip Marlowe meets a woman in a book store (described as "an intelligent Jewess"), and that her original title for the book was The Intelligent Jewess. Does that title seem a better fit for the novel? If that were the title, would that change your perception of the book or of the focus of the book?