As a woman with a love for bras, romance novels, and Jewish culture, I was thrilled to learn that the book “Sima’s Undergarments for Women” had recently come out in paperback (Penguin Books paperback, May 2010: $15). Now I could bring it to the beach, or prop outside on my porch, lemonade in hand, diving into the shady, sexy Jewish lingerie underworld Ilana Stanger-Ross describes in the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Boro Park in Brooklyn where her main character lives and works.
No such luck.
Yes, I took the book to my porch, and read it with a glass of lemonade.
But no, this was no sexy, light read as the back cover’s description had deluded me.
The book’s back cover describes a sexy young Israeli (Timna) shaking up the world of the matronly shop owner (Sima) “as the two laugh, gossip, and sell intimate apparel.” Sima, the back cover deceitfully teases, “finds herself awakening to hope and the possibility of happiness in this beguiling story of New York’s underground sisterhood, and one woman’s second chance.”
However, the awakening and happiness are far too long in coming. The main character’s anger, sadness and general negativity with her husband and herself are the result of her inability to have any children. She pretty much stays angry, sad and negative until the last 30 pages of the book. No great awakening here, and really, no deep character development. The hope? That comes on page 311, nine pages before the book ends.
I understand that some books are meant to be sad, filled with loss and loneliness, but I guess I wasn’t expecting that from this one. Maybe it was the deep red of the book cover, or the idea of girls kibbitzing over lingerie, but something about it made me hope for something more.
The lingerie shop scenes are one the best part of the book. Stanger-Ross tantalizes us with images of moms and daughters fighting as they pick out wedding bras together, or young girls pretending to buy sweatsuits while they try on lovely lace numbers. However, Sima’s infatuation with Timna, the perfectly-shaped Israeli who comes to work for her is a bit disconcerting, as are Stanger-Ross’ descriptions of Sima feeling her customer’s breasts.
There is one thing that Stanger-Ross leaves me with, however – a desire to get a good bra. Anyone know of a basement lingerie store in Saint Paul?
*The FTC made me do it: Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of the book for free in the hope that I would mention it on TC Jewfolk. But getting the book for free doesn’t mean that I was obligated to give a glowing review. I wouldn’t recommend anything that I don’t think you’d enjoy. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” Blah, blah, blah…