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Book Review: Not Our Kind

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

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Not Our Kind by Kitty Zeldis brings to life post World War II in New York City. 1947 was an enlightening year for two women and a child, brought together after a traffic accident. Eleanor, a young Jewish teacher and a WASPy married woman, Patricia, find an unexpected connection, after Eleanor is hired to home school Patricia’s daughter Margeaux, who sees herself as a polio cripple. This story delves into class issues, differences of religion, women’s roles, love, friendship, motherhood, and coming of age.Those who enjoy the popular made for TV show Mrs. Maisel will definitely enjoy this novel since both concentrate on Jewish life in New York City, post World War II.

The author wants readers to know she believes the book appeals to readers of all different religions “because it is really a book about outcasts, being different.  Whether it is religiously, as with Eleanor, or someone with a handicap, as with Margaux. The post war period had a lot of optimism and prosperity in this country.  But Jews still suffered the emotional and social hurts.  Both Patricia and Eleanor struggled against their roles and expectations. Eleanor went on a journey as she looked for where she might fit into this new world.”

Eleanor forms an instant bond with Margaux. Soon the idealistic young woman is filling the bright young girl’s mind with Shakespeare and Latin.  Patricia Bellamy is willing to overlook the fact Eleanor is Jewish because she sees her daughter thriving and willing to venture out in the world again.  But this perfect job has some catches.  Eleanor must disguise her name,changing it to Moss instead of Moskowitz, so other building residents won’t know she is Jewish. Patricia is worried about what her family and society friends will think because she hired a Jewish woman even though she is extremely happy with the effect she has on Margaux. More problems for Eleanor arises after she joins the Bellamy family in their Connecticut summer home to continue tutoring Margaux. Wynn, Patricia’s husband, is an Anti-Semite who sexually harassed and assaulted Eleanor decades before the Me-Too era. Patricia also realizes that a romance is brewing between her bohemianbrother, Tom, and Eleanor.After these lines are crossed, both Eleanor and Patricia will have to make important decisions that will resonate throughout their lives.

“I wanted to show how Margaux’s experience with polio redefined her.  She started out as a happy, pampered, beautiful child with high expectations. After this horrible disease, she is left with a defect that changes who she will be and how she will make a life for herself.  She became a candid survivor.  Eleanor refuses to see her as a cripple, which is part of the reason Margaux is so attracted to her.  Eleanor is smart, compassionate, kind, capable, resourceful, and honest.  She has partial role models in her mother, Patricia, and her publishing boss.  She does not accept what is conventionally out there for her.  Because of this she has courage to venture out. Patricia is more conventional than Eleanor.  Her life is more pre-ordained.  She is willing to see things in a different light.  For instance, she hired a Jewish tutor because she saw the effect Eleanor had on her daughter.  I think she is a very good mother and possibly her daughter was her conscience.”

The story delves into class differences, prejudice, and love. Zeldis brilliantly illuminates how two worlds collide, and the effect it had on these women as they contemplate how a Jew can find a place in a non-Jewish world. Readers will turn the pages wondering what path in life each character will take.

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