Sima's Undergarments for Women
ISBN 9780143117483 | 336 pages | 25 May 2010 | Penguin | 8.26 x 5.23in | 18 - AND UP
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A heartwarming tale of an unlikely friendship amid love, loss, and lingerie
In the basement of her Brooklyn apartment, Sima Goldner welcomes women of all shapes and sizes with warmth, acceptance-and a bra that gives them the support and lift they need. But Sima, regretfully childless at sixty, and harboring a secret that has embittered her marriage, can't seem to do the same for herself. Then Timna, a young Israeli with enviable cleavage, arrives in search of a demi-cup and stays on to become the shop's seamstress. As they laugh, gossip, and sell lingerie, Sima 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.
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Despite the excitement of owning her own lingerie business, Sima's childless life seems an empty shell-until an Israeli woman named Timna walks into her Brooklyn shop and becomes the daughter (and seamstress) she never had. Timna soon becomes an object of obsession for Sima, who tries to control the love life of her new employee as she reflects on her own. Sima's Undergarments for Women's conclusion is frustrating-you'll wait for a juicy revelation about Timna that never arrives-but no matter. In Sima, Ilana Stanger-Ross has created one of the most painfully realistic characters in recent memory, making Women more delicate and refined than the silkiest of nighties.
"Hidden beneath the red and orange brick two-story homes of Boro Park, Brooklyn, is Sima Goldner's basement lingerie shop, where for 35 years she has practiced the mystic art of finding and fitting just the right brassiere for all types of women. In a glance she could see their size, the back and the cup combined. '36-D,' she'd say. In vain the women protested, 'but I'm a 34. I've always been.' [But] when on her advice they slipped back on their shirts to evaluate the shape a new bra gave, they inevitably agreed." So, too, will readers slip into Brooklyn native Ilana Stanger-Ross's debut novel, finding something both comforting and uplifting. Sima's life looks enviably stable, with her successful business, her tight-knit Orthodox community and her decades-long marriage to Lev. But Sima herself is very much an outsider: "no one gathered at her table for Shabbat dinner, no one caught her up on the gossip outside synagogue on Saturday." And her marriage has lasted years, but it comes with a sense of emptiness and crippling distance as Lev repeatedly chimes, "I didn't notice you were gone." Then a young, vivacious Israeli named Timna blows into her shop, sticks around as a salesgirl and proves to be the catalyst that will reveal the gaping wounds bubbling underneath Sima's placid exterior." -The New York Post
"Backdropped by the shop's colorful patrons, Stanger-Ross' engaging novel follows Sima as she struggles to find balance in navigating her newfound relationship with Timna while exploring the intense depths of personal reconciliation and redemption."-Booklist
"Charming-filled with gentle uplift."-Kirkus
"This book is a rare little bird that should have a chance to spread its wings widely and at great distance."-Sarah Weinman, Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind Blog
"Sima's Undergarments for Women is a novel alive to the hidden stories all around us, from the bittersweet ambivalence of adulthood's first choices to the heartbreak and forgiveness that form the underwire of any long marriage. With grace, good humor, and a seamstress's eye for the way unconnected lives can become stitched together, Ilana Stanger-Ross pulls back the curtain on a world of intimacy many know well but no one has described so movingly."--Peter Manseau, author of Songs for the Butcher's Daughter
"You're in for a novel that's truly novel. Breaking new ground in graceful, unselfconscious, and very funny prose, Stanger-Ross explores the force of thwarted mother-loveŅits power both to harm and to ultimately heal."--Ellis Avery, author of The Teahouse Fire
From Publishers Weekly
In Brooklyn's Borough Park, Sima Goldner runs a bra shop from her basement while tolerating her oafish husband, Lev, who lords over the upstairs. But when young and beautiful Israeli expatriate Timna takes the gig as the shop's seamstress, Sima confronts some long-hidden feelings, fears and impulses, and her formerly small life opens up. From the very first page, this is an assured narrative with an even surer voice; readers will know that they are in the hands of a real storyteller as Sima and Timna forge a partnership. Neighborhood subplots bubble along nicely as Stanger-Ross charts Sima's awakening and shows how Timna's arrival and continued presence affect Sima. The bra shop works wonderfully as a stage and forum for the many ladies who tromp through it. This ends up being much more than a novel of female bonding-it's a subtly powerful treatise on friendship, trust and love, written with plenty of verve.
From Library Journal
Sima Goldberg, owner of a bra shop in Brooklyn, NY, is the kind of woman whom other women trust. Sima is privy to the thoughts and desires of her clientele as she custom-fits each one with undergarments that lift, correct, and enhance their female figures...all at discount prices, of course. But while her patrons bare their souls to Sima, she manages to keep the biggest secret to herself, one that has been a burden for over 46 years. It is only when Sima hires Timna, a young Israeli girl, to be her assistant that her secret is exposed. Timna is a free spirit who moves through Sima's life offering her the allure of love and adventure, yet when Timna flees, she leaves behind a wake of destruction. Debut novelist Stanger-Ross writes about the intimacy among women whose lives are defined by their Orthodox Jewish community. She deftly reveals just enough information about her characters to excite the reader's curiosity without making the story line predictable. In the end, this is a tale about appreciating one's life, and isn't that what life is about?
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