Sue William Silverman grew up in a peculiar paradox: not only was she a Jewish girl in a predominantly Christian, wealthy suburb, she was a victim and survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Her life's journey took her from the West Indies, to the States, to Israel and back again, through moves and marriages. It's fair to say she grew up as a child of wealth and privilege: and continued as a privileged woman. But the wealth and prominence led to a preoccupation with maintaining a perfect public identity for the family and concealing toxic secrets.
Sue searched for a clean-cut Christian father figure: everything her father was not, and yearned to belong to the dominant culture. This yearning for fathering, this yearning to be subsumed into the American mainstream, took root in her paradoxical love for Pat Boone and her love for three Gentile husbands. I enjoyed her story, although her feelings toward Judaism bothered me. Like many Jews of her age and socioeconomic status. Ms. Silverman seems relatively ignorant of Judaism and content to remain so: throughout the book she describes snubbing her Russian-Jewish grandmother, and how her younger self viewed Jewish ritual objects with either horror, fear, or puzzlement at their unfamiliarity, going to a synagogue only a few times in her life. But to be fair to her, her Jewish father was a child molester who abused her and was, needless to say, far from pious in his own behavior.
The most intriguing part of the book, for me, was essentially about Ms. Sue Silverman's quest for discovery. Essentially, she did not know who she was, and this not-knowing led her to look for herself in two different countries, three husbands, and any number of U.S. states. On the way to finding herself, she forms a warm relationship with Pat Boone and discovers his own unexpected connection to Judaism and Israel. Learning to define the self independently, without reference to husbands/children/family/wealth, is difficult for anyone, particularly women in our culture, who are encouraged to denigrate themselves and think only of others' needs. It was especially difficult for Sue, the "gefilte fish swimming upstream". At the end I found myself rooting for her and wanting to be her friend.
My only complaint is her sense of pacing: the chapters are widely disparate in topic and obviously began life as vignettes. And her jumping around in time doesn't help, either. But overall, she is a fine writer, with a great style, and I'd recommend the read. Just brace yourself for the ambiguity. The end is bittersweet: some storms are indeed too fierce to be borne, and she herself notes that she has no children, no more husbands and no close relatives left. Yet she stands tall and strong on her own two feet: Sue Silverman, like her ancestors, is a survivor.