Eyes of Emerald: Harvey Stelman and Andy Nathan
Family traditions, cultures, understanding and bridging the gap between the ways of your parents and the young is just part of what authors Harvey Stelman and Andy Nathan impart to readers in this heartfelt story that takes readers back to the 1930’s living in New York. Harvey Stelman shares this real life story as he and his cousin create a mosaic of the lives of two families: The Rothsteins and the Changs. Eyes of Emerald creates a picture of an orthodox Jewish family whose values, traditions and morals mirror that of mine growing up living with my grandparents. Ida and Irving Rothstein are hardworking family oriented people who have devoted their lives to helping their children get the best that they can offer. Irving works on the docks and Ida tends to the home along with Grandma Lipchitz the matriarch of the family. Irving and Ida remind me of my grandparents but Grandma is definitely more like my mom. When Grandma speaks or tells a story everyone stops and listens. Respect for elders is taught and the story opens where we meet Stanley a young man who wants to learn more about his family’s heritage, enters the genealogy room of the library and here is where the story begins.
This book brings to light what happens when two young people of different cultures and backgrounds find themselves drawn to each other. When Esther meets Sammy something magical happens over her first dish of Chinese Soup! Never having eaten anything but kosher food, this experience was not only exciting but also daring. Learning about her background, the lives of her parents, her younger brother and their family ties made it more difficult for Esther when she finds herself in a situation that is no longer controls. Meeting Sammy would change her life and going to lunch every Tuesday at the House Of Chang, meeting Louie his best friend and bodyguard would set off a chain of events that many would not be able to handle.
The story takes place in two locations with Sammy’s family in China and fighting a war against the Communists. As Esther graduates high school and gets a job in a textile factory as a typist little did she realize that her life would change. The year 1933 the time period before WWII and highly volatile as a graduation that meant so much to so many is tarnished by two who decide to play a prank throwing tomatoes as the audience. Esther is smart and gets her first job as a typist at Finkelbaum’s Textile Factory as a result of her friendship with Rebecca Feingold. As the situation becomes apparent that the job is really a good start she meets Doris the Yenta and matchmaker who tries to introduce her to the right guy. The date with Hymie would definitely mirror many that some of us have experienced in the past and Esther manages to handle it with finesse. But, there is much more as someone she really likes and admires wants her to date him just to ward off his parents eyes in order to hide the fact he is dating an Irish Catholic girl. So, agreeing to the date as a friend just might lead Esther to Sammy who won’t give up! Things change in China and Sammy is forced to return home to take his place as a General in the army fighting with Chang Kai Chek against the Maoist guerillas that were trying to take over the province where Sammy’s father happens to rule as governor. But, Sammy with the help of his friend Louie and bodyguard manage to kidnap Esther, put her on a boat to China.
Imagine waking up on a boat with no one around except Louie and of course Sammy. Angry, afraid and wanting to understand just why she was kidnapped did not endear her to Sammy or anyone else. Leaving her family, not letting them know she was gone and forced to live in a country whose customs were different and foreign to her would take everything out of Esther as Sammy hoped she would learn to cope and find happiness living in his family’s palace. His family is royalty and they lived better than most Kings and Queens and although she had a servant assigned to her she felt out of place. Meeting his parents did not help at first because accepting her as Jewish and not part of their culture might ever happen.
The authors bring to light the many different foods, customs, clothes and traditions of the Chinese people and the history behind the people, the war and why Sammy’s family needed to bond and band together against the Communists. When Sammy is called to war Esther is left alone and has to learn to understand the ways of the Chinese, the language, and customs and hopefully Sammy will return. But, his father would prefer that Esther return to New York but Sammy stands strong and they marry.
Things change as she asks to learn more about what is happening at home and learns of something that forces them to return to New York. Lives change, her parents learn about Sammy and two cultures become one as Sammy does so much for her family and wins them over. How the two cultures blend and how their lives change you need to read and understand for yourself. But, there is a curse hanging over Esther’s head that you will learn about from the start and something happens to remind her that Paddy’s curse just might come true: The curse of the bone of the bird! Just what that means and how that changed things for Esther you will learn when you read the twist at the end and the curve ball the author’s throw as the final part of the story is related to so many who entered the library, the genealogy room and heard the fate of not only Esther but Sammy. Eyes of Emerald: Eyes so green, so sparkling and so alive yet so vacant at the end! A story that spans many countries, places and a man who just wanted to make one woman so happy. Restaurants expanding, businesses flourishing and one moment in time that would change it all! Eyes of Emerald: a heartwarming, heart breaking story of a storybook romance that bridges two cultures and hopefully will teach others to embrace our differences and understand that new traditions can be made if you bridge the gap. Characters that are well crafted, a story that really happened and your dad would be so proud and is definitely smiling. I guess it’s a good day!
Fran Lewis: Reviewer