What Others are saying about Please Say Kaddish for Me:
This is a fast-paced read, a disturbing glimpse into the lives of Jewish families in Russia at the turn of the 20th century. Very sad and horrific the violence and tragedies these characters endure. At its heart though, this book is a moving, poignant love story that reminds us of our own precious humanity, no matter what our race, religion or ethnicity. I can't wait for the sequel. I need to know what happens to these extremely well-drawn characters.
Lisa Regan, Author of Finding Claire Fletcher, Aberration, & Hold Still
A good sign of the impact a book is having on me is whether I think about the characters when I am not reading it. I did that often with Please Say Kaddish for Me. I have read, and been impressed with previous published work of Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, but this 7-years-in-the-making opus is her best, in my view. It is an evocative, character-driven novel that brings to life the tragedies born by families during the anti-Jewish pogroms in Russia from 1903-1906. I became invested in the characters and culture set in a time of arranged marriages and millennia of tradition. It is exquisitely crafted with plot twists and, at times, a riveting, page-turning pace. The characters are palpable—the star-crossed lovers, the tradition-bound, the benevolent, the enlightened, and the evil. In three words, it is engaging literary fiction.
Lonnie Whitaker, Author of Geese to a Poor Market
For those who have never suffered discrimination or persecution, Please Say Kaddish For Me will bring empathy toward all who have. Reading this book will ignite the fire of indignation in your soul against all forms of intolerance, as well as the fire of faith in the face of despair. This work presents us with insight into the bond and traditions of what it means to be Jewish. I recommend this work of Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Whether Christian, Muslim, Hindu or agnostic, reading it will raise your consciousness toward the revelation of our one world, one family of man, one Creator of all . . . .
James C. Washburn, Author of Touching Spirit: The Letters of Minominike
From the first sentence, Wisoff-Field’s writing seized me, transporting me to Russia just before the turn of the twentieth century. I became the young Jewish girl, Havah, struggling to survive amid extreme prejudice, hatred and conflict. I felt Havah’s grief, anguish, strength, determination and grit. I feasted on the words of the Torah, as well as the Holy prayers, which I’d never heard. I wondered who would be the lucky man to stand beside her as her husband. Would that decision be hers to make or would the elders make it for her? Filled with suspense, beauty, love, and true-life horror, Please Say Kaddish For Me is a riveting read.
Diane Yates, author of Pathways of the Heart and All That Matters
Please Say Kaddish for Me is an adventure, a love story and a tale of survival against all odds that would be too much for most adults, let alone a sixteen-year-old girl. Hope, courage and strength shine through in Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ novel.
Holly McClure, Author of The Vessel of Scion
Please Say Kaddish for Me is a poignant window into the world of Eastern European Jews of the 19th Century. Ms. Wisoff-Fields’s beautiful prose takes readers through history to experience devastating challenges as well as tender moments. A captivating read!
Jan Morrill, Author of The Red Kimono
I read Please Say Kaddish For Me over the last couple of days and not sure I can fully express how deeply the author's writing touched me. I felt like I was more than an onlooker in each scene...so rich with memorable characters, history, spiritual depth, and relationship dynamics! The author's grasp of the human struggle and her ability to craft the English language amaze me!"
Good easy read, did not want it to end.
Amazing story, can't wait for the 2nd book!
Waiting, anxiously, for Book #2.
Michael and Cheryl Ryan
This story is so captivating. The nuggets of truth that break your heart and the fun woven in to give you hope. Very entertaining!
Here is your chance to read a book before it becomes a classic. They should make this into a movie.
J. L. F.
Rochelle Wisoff-Fields' descriptive style of writing draws you into the story. I feel I know the characters on a very personal level. Please Say Kaddish For Me is a book you can't put down. Every page is interesting and exciting. I can't wait for the sequel, From Silt and Ashes to come out.
The story gripped me from the very beginning and kept me reading until the very end. It was a touching story of the life of a Jewish girl, Havah, during the time of Christian persecution toward Jews. Rochelle Wisoff-Fields did an excellent job writing the book and I was particularly impressed with her word crafting of the scene when Havah was teetering between life and death. I recommend this book to anyone who are interested in Jewish history or simply want a good book to read.
This novel gives a heartrending view of the spirit and life and sufferings of the Eastern European Jewry, from which many American Jews derived. It was enjoyable and emotionally engaging. The novel made me cry at least twice, and is a great portrayal of the painful but rich history and ways of our people.
Rabbi Shmuel Wolkenfeld
It has been a while since a book captured my attention so deeply. I couldn't put it down and forfeited cleaning house for reading!
My Yiddish is so-so (thankfully my father was a "goyim mit a Yiddishe kopf", so I knew quite a few of them though I cannot guarantee my pronunciation ~ in my head ~ was right!) but in most cases, the English translation was given.
Horrid time for Jews in Russia under the Tsarist (Czarist) regime. The horrors this people were dealt were beyond appalling and Rochelle describes them in all their gory detail. Kudos to her for shining a light on a most difficult time and not whitewashing it.
I fell in love with Havah Cohen, the main heroine of the story. There are a lot of characters and it takes a good bit of concentration to figure out who is who and what their relationships are to each other but Havah's story touches on each one to paint a clear picture.
Not for the faint of heart but definitely for anyone who enjoys historical stories. You don't need to be Jewish to appreciate this story but an open mind and heart is definitely a must.
I bought this book a couple of weeks ago when the author had a table at an event I attended. She autographed the book and I figured I'd read it when I had time. I don't have a lot of time to read these days, so I'm kind of picky about what I buy to read. I took it home, and that evening just thought I'd take a peek at the first few pages out of curiosity. And I was hooked. I read till I had to go to bed. The next day I read every free minute I had and finished it that night before I went to bed (late). The story just draws you in, and when you become acquainted with the characters you begin to feel you know them. At times you might be disappointed in their behavior and reactions and at times proud of them. The late 1800s of Russia was a dangerous time to be a Jew. I've had people tell me they weren't familiar with a word I used in something I wrote. The word was "pogrom". If you aren't familiar with the word, this book will make it crystal clear, painfully so. I think it was a book that needed to be written.
This is something I do very very seldom. I also bought the kindle version. I would like to keep my autographed copy nice, and there are times I take my PlayBook with me that I wouldn't take just one book. I like it well enough I wanted to have it available. It's just not really one of those I would want to start and then have to leave it for a week or two.
Needless to say, I'm quite ready for the sequel!
When I started reading the book, I did not know much about this time in history. I'm glad I read it. Rochelle Wisoff-Fields is an excellent writer. I have read other writings by her. I enjoyed them. She does both an excellent job developing the story and characters. I like her descriptive language. The words, paragraphs, and chapters flow very well. I will continue to read writings by her. I would encourage other to read this book not only for enjoyment but from a historical perspective. A fascinating yet tragic time in history. At the end of the book, I found myself wanting to meet Havah, a survivor.
It seemed as if I actually knew these people and that they were not characters at all. I so appreciated the fact that Wisoff-Fields did not sugar coat things. Instead she told it how it really was. Very well done. The worst part of the book is when it ended. I wanted it to continue!
Ms. Wisoff-Fields' obstetrical scenes were accurate and made my pulse race. Brilliantly drawn characters make this novel hard to put down. You are propelled into their lives and taken on a historical journey that you won't soon forget.
Tracey Lane Delaplain, MD, FACOG
This is truly a great novel I could not put down. I chuckled, cried, hoped and was on pins and needles. I revisited moments I had heard about from friends and colleagues in my past. Please Say Kaddish for Me, allows the reader to learn more about history by falling in love with a family and their friends. As Scarlet was the beauty and strength in Gone With The Wind, Havah is that and much more; the reader falls in love with her every moment throughout the novel. It is a story about faith, family and resilience. Each new character the writer adds is a not only a new person but an experience.
Rochelle uses poetic prose with such skill I had to reread many passages and breathe in her beautiful narrative style. Falling in love with Arel and Havah, reminded me of my experience reading many novels by Chaim Potok.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book although at times it had me wanting to hide from the persecution that the Jews suffered in Russia at the hands of the Christians. Field's main character Havah suffered more than most with the massacre of her own family, her own disability and further events which I won't spoil by divulging. Despite this it love blossomed and I found that I was deeply involved with the characters. Historical fiction at its best. I couldn't put it down.
This novel, set in the Czarist Russia of 1899, was a real eye-opener for me. Before I read it, I knew very little about the appalling treatment of Jews in the Country at that time. Labelled as "Christ Killers", whole families were brutally murdered or lived in constant terror of thugs storming into theirs homes or workplaces to treat them to violence or finish them off.
Against this backcloth, the author paints a most vivid and detailed picture of daily Jewish life and the importance of family, bound in tradition, ritual observation, and obligation: the concept of extended family ingrained into them in a way that outsiders might misunderstand as exclusivity and use as an excuse for persecution.
The main character in the novel is Hannah, the daughter of a Rabbi. After her family is murdered and her village razed, she is adopted into another family. She's feisty and sometimes pigheaded, often fighting against the traditional female role expected of her, which includes women not reading and instead tending to household chores, especially the preparation of meals. In this novel, there is so much about cooking and the rituals surrounding mealtimes! On the face of it, this might not sound interesting but the author describes it in such as to makes it fascinating.
Although the story is centered around Jews, it is very much about the human condition: the delicate balance between order and chaos; the push-me-pull-you between love and hatred, and the grey areas in between. Thus, it's a story that's worth reading, whatever your religious or non-religious background.
I have one little criticism, or rather suggestion to the author if she plans a second edition of the novel, and that is the construction of a family tree in diagram form at the beginning of the book. The names would all be familiar for a Russian Jew from 1899, but not so for the likes of modern English-speaking readers. I got in a terrible muddle about names and about who was related to who. But don't let this put you off reading this most worthy and illuminating work, just have a pen to the ready, and jot down who is who on a scrap of paper to keep as your bookmark, then you won't get lost.
This was a compelling read, from beginning to end and I finished it in two sessions. A thoroughly engrossing tale, with brilliant characterization. I felt as though I knew the characters well, and since I knew that a pogrom would be imminent, I found my anxiety levels increasing the more attached I became to them. Atmospheric, graphic, charming and horrifying. The pace was just right as was the changing and contrasting cycle: horror – forbidden love – bitterness – love – horror – redemption. Characters were dispatched expeditiously with just the right amount of detail and at appropriate intervals – and none of it was signaled up in advance. A vivid portrayal of Jewish family life in extraordinarily difficult times.
I have long been a fan of the historical fiction genre, in part because I can get a more personal view of past events than what might be presented in history books. Having said that, Please Say Kaddish For Me goes way beyond just illuminating a terrible chapter in Jewish history. I suspect many people today know little, if anything, about the pogroms that preceded the holocaust of WWII. With this novel the historical aspect is clearly well-researched. But the characters that illustrate this history are so real that I found it hard to put the book down. I needed to know that Havah would survive, that she would hopefully find her happiness. But it wasn't just Havah that drew me in, it was Arel, and Ulrich, and Nikolai...and all the other members of this group whether family or acquaintances. Every character is strongly drawn and fully three-dimensional, complete with the personal complexities inherent in all of us. It has been a while since I have read a book that was a real page-turner but this most assuredly was. Wonderful book.
Jean L. Hays
Rochelle writes with a deep passion for the Jewish people, being Jewish herself. Her interest in the horrific history they bear brings to light a deep dark past of the violent pogroms and persecution they were under while living in the Jewish Pale of Settlement of Russia and Eastern Europe. She is very descriptive and graphic as she moves her characters around from scene to scene, and a reader can identify with their pain, turmoil and despair.
Joyce E. Johnson
Please Say Kaddish For Me was enlightening and totally consuming. I connected with the protagonist, Havah, immediately. I was so concerned for all the characters, I could not put the book down. That is what an extremely talented author does, pulls you through the rabbit hole to another place, another time. I found myself looking up a bit disoriented since her descriptions and dialogue made me feel like I was right there. I am going to get whatever else Fields writes. I saw where the sequel will be out later this year, From Silt and Ashes. I have to have it! Oh, and she did the cover art. Holy smokes! She is fabulous; should have her own exhibit.
I am currently reading 4 different books that I have started over the last year, without finishing them. When I picked this book up, I absolutely could not put it down and finished it in several days. This isn't even my genre for reading but the characters were so real and visual due to the phenomenal writing that I had to know what was going to happen next. I was very caught up in the characters. Both the good and the bad. This book would make an epic movie due to being so visual. An extremely talented artist and writer, this book should be on every book readers "want now" list.
J. W. F.
This is a marvelous book about severe antisemitism even before the Nazi era. The horrors of persecution are made real and personal through the eyes of the main characters. A very worthwhile book for anyone whether Jewish or not.
What a great story! Couldn't put it down. More to the point, a story well told, an unexpected treasure. Not usually drawn to historical fiction, I can't wait for the next installment!
This book was so well-written, I could not put it down. Although sometimes painfully sad, it was nonetheless uplifting! I cried, I smiled, and sighed a lot. I was deeply touched by the truth of the pogroms, and the loving, strong characters. An historical novel that is as much relevant to the present, as it is to the past.
Please Say Kaddish For Me is a well written story told through the thoughts and feelings of several unique characters. Rochelle gives the reader a feel for the time of terror for Jews in 1899 Russia. But it's not all bad. Rochelle portrays the love of family, jealousy,forgiveness, and sharing while allowing the reader to peek into the Jewish faith and customs of the time. The character's struggles are a mixture of passion and compassion, acceptance fear and longing.
I was spellbound by this book, which surprised me because it is not my normal reading theme. It not only tells in dynamic fashion the history of the Jews in the early 1900’s but does so through the life journey of a character truly brought to life by the author, with a valuable message that is thoroughly relevant today.
This story says to me that no matter how things change, they remain the same. Those with the most power or money are given deference to dictate what is right and acceptable. While the history of the treatment of Jews is unspeakably horrific; sadly, in reading the journey of this family I thought how the lessons of the past have not translated into application of those lessons to the treatment of people today. The same barbaric acts are perpetuated today against those with beliefs, preferences, skin color or even language different from others.
I anxiously await the next novel by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.
Beautifully written! if you enjoy historical novels this is a book you absolutely must read. Rochelle is a master story teller who has brought the horrific Russian pograms between 1903-1905 against the Jews to life while also allowing us a glimpse at daily life during the period. Her characters also show the multi-dimensional facets of human nature from love, honor, forgiveness and redemption. Considering the trying times we are currently living in, this book shows us there is truly hope as long as we continue to learn the lessons she has shown us here. I'm looking forward to reading her sequel!
If Laura Ingalls Wilder had been a Russian Jew ... THIS would have been her story!
Please Say Kaddish For Me tells the story of a similar girl --- except she's the sole survivor of a mass homicide leveled against her own people in her village. Please Say Kaddish for Me is a stunning, provocative narrative with characters that almost breathe on you as you read.
The only drawback to the book is that, once you get to the end ... you'll be hungry for MORE!
If you're a fan of history, romance, and action, you'll love Please Say Kaddish For Me. Wisoff-Fieds writes deftly about a part of history that's unknown to most people. No sugar-coating here, just things that really happened, often terrible, in the lives of people it's easy to believe are real. No easy answers or decisions here and you'll agonize and maybe even cry with and over people you'll come to care about. If you're sad to see the story end, don't be. The already-written sequel, From Silt and Ashes. will be out soon!
From the very first page of Rochelle Wisoff-Fields's' novel, I was swept up in Havah Cohen's story. I was spellbound, so much so, I didn't want to put this book down. The book is simultaneously driven by character and events at a quick pace, divided into four parts. The year is 1899 in Czarist Russia, a time marked by Jewish pogroms in which entire families are randomly massacred.
The book begins with a horrible tragedy of Havah Cohen, our main heroine, and the slaughter of her family in the middle of the night. When we meet her, Havah is driven from her home, shocked and grief-stricken, and wanders barefoot, reciting the Hebrew prayer of Kaddish, a prayer for the living for the dead and for the bereft.
Because Havah is a rabbi's daughter, she is well versed in its study which was uncommon at the time. So, when a father and son, Yussel and Arel Gitterman, find Havah at their doorstep, mumbling Kaddish, they are awestruck and quickly come to her aid. What's more, Arel, promised to another since the age of 13, is completely captivated by Havah's presence. When Havah is conscious and recovering, she too becomes aware of her forbidden connection to Arel. At the heart of this story is romantic, passionate love between Havah and Arel, and the barriers that they face.
This story is also about the love of family and of community, and how this love transcends the horrible acts afflicted upon them. There are many characters in Ms. Wisoff-Fields's story, but I was never overwhelmed, but rather carried along, almost as an eavesdropper, but just as easily a participant, for it is hard not to get wrapped up in the anguish of this community and the depth of their suffering. Her descriptions of the horror of these brutal acts are gruesome, vivid and difficult to read, I believe as they should be.
I am struck by the authenticity and honest portrayal of this dire time in history, and by this family's resilience, their bravery and the way that they lift one another up. Their Jewish faith holds them together, but their traditions and customs are also challenged in the face of all that is at stake and with the complete upheaval of their lives.
Wisoff-Fields's storytelling is keen and her writing both crisp and fluid, but underneath it all, the author's passion is undeniably present. There are no words wasted here. As I read, I felt as though I was standing next to them, hearing them breathe and listening to them speak. It's not often I feel this way when I read a book.
As I read the last page, I thought everyone should read this book. Now, more than ever, this story needs to be read and shared, because unfortunately the world is not a more kind and gentle place. I hope that this story also finds a place inside the classroom, with its message of compassion and courage of the human spirit. I can't wait to read the sequel. Excellent - 5 solid stars!
I thoroughly enjoyed Say Kaddish For Me – I cried and smiled in equal measure. I grew attached to the family, particularly admiring the spirit and determination of Havah and got very worried many times when I sensed something bad was about to happen. Rochelle produced a very vivid and believable portrayal of Jewish family life in some of the worst times imaginable. I very much look forward to the sequel From Silt and Ashes.