A Fam­i­ly for Frayda

Menucha Chana Levin
  • Review
By – November 7, 2014

When the read­er meets” Fray­da Man­delbloom, she is a fif­teen-year-old liv­ing in Israel and observ­ing the year of mourn­ing sub­se­quent to her father’s death. Her par­ents had divorced and her moth­er remar­ried and moved to the Unit­ed States. Fray­da boards with a fam­i­ly friend who works a lot of hours, so Fray­da spends a lot of time feel­ing sad and lone­ly. Through a chance meet­ing, she con­nects with the Glaz­er fam­i­ly, who wel­come her into their home. As her rela­tion­ship with the fam­i­ly devel­ops, so does her con­fi­dence and self-esteem. A trip to vis­it her moth­er over the Hanukkah vaca­tion erodes this con­fi­dence quick­ly, as her moth­er is very involved in her own life and very crit­i­cal of every­thing about Fray­da, par­tic­u­lar­ly her weight. Fray­da returns to Israel, where she wins a writ­ing con­test, makes a new friend, and moves in with the Glaz­er fam­i­ly, tak­ing walks with the moth­er and babysit­ting for the children. 

This sto­ry appeared orig­i­nal­ly as a ser­i­al in Binah Mag­a­zine, and is based on an encounter the author had many years ago. Notable for a nov­el from an Ortho­dox pub­lish­er are the obvi­ous flaws of many of the char­ac­ters and how they grow and devel­op. There is a strong sense of place and commu­nity in Israel, and the sim­ple, char­ac­ter-dri­ven plot obvi­ous­ly does not have the dra­ma and spec­ta­cle of much of cur­rent YA fic­tion. While geared toward female Ortho­dox read­ers ages 12 – 16, it is a good choice for all Jew­ish collections.

Kathe Pinchuck, M.L.I.S., is the librar­i­an of Con­gre­ga­tion Beth Sholom in Tea­neck, New Jer­sey. She is cur­rent­ly the chair of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Award Com­mit­tee of the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries.

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