Sum­mer of Stolen Secrets

  • Review
By – August 3, 2021

After her two best friends turn against her, Cata­ri­na Cat” Arden-Blume is grate­ful for the oppor­tu­ni­ty to leave New York to spend a few weeks with her aunt, uncle, and cousin Lex­ie in Baton Rouge. Cat is par­tic­u­lar­ly intrigued by the idea of get­ting to know her estranged pater­nal grand­moth­er, Saf­ta, who cut ties with Cat’s dad when he mar­ried her non-Jew­ish mom. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Saf­ta is less than friend­ly. She crit­i­cizes Cat’s clothes and ignores her ques­tions about Shab­bat. As she and Lex­ie help out at Safta’s ritzy depart­ment store, Gerta’s, Cat is shocked to dis­cov­er that Safta’s bristly demeanor dis­ap­pears in the pres­ence of cus­tomers and ador­ing employ­ees. Cat feels uncom­fort­able around her fam­i­ly and it doesn’t help that she often gets caught in the mid­dle as she is forced to cov­er for Lex­ie, who fre­quent­ly feigns ill­ness so that she can sneak out to see her obnox­ious boyfriend.

Deter­mined to learn more about Saf­ta, her father’s child­hood, and the family’s secre­tive his­to­ry, Cat is enthralled to dis­cov­er a hid­den store­room at Gerta’s filled with old let­ters in Ger­man, arti­facts, papers, and pho­tos. Through dig­ging and research, Cat puts togeth­er the pieces of a fam­i­ly mys­tery, shed­ding light on secrets and answer­ing ques­tions about Safta’s sto­ry that she didn’t even know she had.

Sum­mer of Stolen Secrets offers dynam­ic, lay­ered insights into the jux­ta­po­si­tions of fam­i­ly bonds and the heavy secrets and hid­den sto­ries that trick­le down through gen­er­a­tions. The book ignites vary­ing emo­tions, rang­ing from Cat’s humor­ous obser­va­tions to touch­ing and heart­break­ing dis­cov­er­ies. Cat is a clever and relat­able pro­tag­o­nist. Unique­ly, her inner voice is direct­ed to Saf­ta. Cat nar­rates as she chron­i­cles the details rang­ing from an uncom­fort­able encounter at a classmate’s Bat Mitz­vah to her expe­ri­ences in Louisiana. Read­ers will enjoy her atten­tive, some­times wry insights.

Mid­dle grade stu­dents will enjoy this high­ly rec­om­mend­ed, mov­ing, engag­ing story.

Jil­lian Bietz stud­ied library tech­nol­o­gy and research skills and cur­rent­ly works in the library sys­tem. She is a book review­er for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and Kirkus Review Indie. Jil­lian lives in South­ern California.

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