Presented with a mysterious inheritance by her deceased Israeli aunt, Tsippy Silberberg embarks on a journey to Tel Aviv, eager to learn more about her heritage and the meaning behind her new found possessions. Tsippy’s plans for her trip are relatively simple: obtain the brown suitcase and fish service that her aunt left to her, try to find a husband to settle down with, and avoid indulging in her longtime pastime of gorging on frozen vegetables. Before she can accomplish any of these goals, Bella Kugelman, a strong-willed Holocaust survivor, suddenly thrusts herself into Tsippy’s life and begins making regular visits, telling her stories from her Polish hometown of Bedzin.
Tsippy is initially reluctant to entertain Mrs. Kugelman’s long-winded sessions of nostalgia, but despite her best efforts, she fails to keep the old woman from regularly visiting her suite. To her surprise, as the sessions continue, Tsippy finds herself longing to learn more about her own ancestry and the heritage that her father — a Holocaust survivor himself — had kept hidden from her since childhood. As Mrs. Kugelman continues to feed her with colorful stories from Bedzin, Tsippy gradually begins to claim the town and its people as her own.
Here Comes Mrs. Kugelman is an enjoyable, engrossing read. Pradelski’s depiction of Jewish life in pre-war Poland comes off as both highly imaginative and authentic. At times there’s even a magical quality to Mrs. Kugelman’s stories, as seen in tales like that of Golda, the staunch Communist revolutionary so rigid in her views that she eventually turns to stone in her prison cell, thus avoiding capture by the Nazis during the occupation. By the end of the novel, the reader will empathize with Tsippy’s overwhelming desire to make the town of Bedzin her own and then cheer when she eventually finds a way to bridge that connection to her own lost heritage.