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"If we know we can't have the thing we want most, why does our desire for it never lessen?" asks Amy, the fourth generation of Polish women in this memorable first novel. Although there are snatches of Polish lore and cuisine, this taut story is really about mothers and daughters. From Rose, who in 1919 writes to her mother in Poland that she has a new, American name, to Helen, who made her peace with old ways and new in Detroit, to Ginger, who left the family she found suffocating only to find another kind of slow asphyxiation in alcohol, to her daughter Amy, who taught English in Thailand but holds the ties of memory her mother tried so hard to cut, the tale dips and weaves like the ebb and flow of voices overheard from the kitchen. Pietrzyk is neither sentimental nor detached; instead, her women, tied by blood, sound like relatives we recognize. Similar in its grace and theme to Anna Monardo's lovely Courtyard of Dreams (1993). --GraceAnne A. DeCandido
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A family saga comprising 16 self-contained chapters, each a monologue (or dialogue) featuring one of four women in a prolific Polish-American clan, this compelling debut is an example of the novel-in-stories at its best. In prose as plain and four-square as her protagonists, Pietrzyk traces the family's evolution from 1919 through the late 1980s, from its transplantation to the U.S.specifically, Detroitthrough three generations, showing how the older women (who privately refer to themselves as Marchewskas, after matriarch Rose's maiden name) preserve ethnic traditions and family customs and why their daughters shake them off. Of the 10 women of the Marchewska family, the book focuses upon Rose, her daughter Helen, granddaughter Ginger (the rebel who abandons Detroit and settles in Phoenix) and great-granddaughter Amy. The voices of these four women are quite differentRose's primal and earthy; Helen's pathetic; Ginger's cool, irreverent, iconoclastic and questioning; Amy's tempered and mature beyond her years. Reading this novel is like leafing through a family photo album (one of Pietrzyk's favored motifs) except that, once you pick up this book, it's hard to put it down. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved