Next to Love

  • Review
By – October 31, 2011

Bas­ing her nov­el on the doc­u­ment­ed World War II sto­ry of the Bed­ford Boys, nine­teen young men from the same small New Eng­land com­mu­ni­ty killed on Oma­ha Beach on D‑Day, Ellen Feld­man paints an intri­cate por­trait of the fam­i­lies left behind. Fol­low­ing the lives of three cou­ples, not all of whose mem­bers sur­vive the war, Feld­man gives new insight into the sac­ri­fices made by the Great­est Gen­er­a­tion” — on the bat­tle­front as well as on the home front. The impact of the war on the sol­diers, their par­ents, their wives and their chil­dren is one that lasts far beyond the war’s end: Feldman’s nar­ra­tive spans from 1944 to 1964 and cap­tures the emo­tion­al rip­ples that long out­last the war itself. 

Her pro­tag­o­nists expe­ri­ence vio­lence and trag­ic loss­es; as they attempt to rebuild their lives, they bear wit­ness to the birth of a new Amer­i­ca. In the micro­cosm of their small New Eng­land town, Feldman’s char­ac­ters wit­ness the inven­tion of cred­it cards, sub­ur­ban tract hous­ing, a nascent Civ­il Rights Move­ment, and the con­spic­u­ous con­sump­tion of the post-war boom era. The expe­ri­ences of one of the three fam­i­lies Feld­man por­trays also offer a win­dow into the period’s anti-Semitism. 

The nov­el is metic­u­lous­ly researched, with peri­od details that enliv­en char­ac­ters or sit­u­a­tions that might oth­er­wise seem stereo­typ­i­cal or trite.

Rab­bi Jef­frey Kobrin is the Prin­ci­pal of the North Shore Hebrew Acad­e­my in Great Neck, NY. In addi­tion to Ordi­na­tion from RIETS, he has a BA and MA in Eng­lish Lit­er­a­ture from Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty, where he is cur­rent­ly pur­su­ing a Ph.D. Rab­bi Kobrin lives in Riverdale, NY with his wife and four daughters.

Discussion Questions