In Sima's Undergarments for Women, Sima runs a lingerie shop from the basement of her home. One day Tinma wanders in to buy a bra, but stays on as a seamstress when she learns that Sima is hiring. Tinma's youth and beauty also allow her to model some of the merchandize for the customers. Together, Sima and Tinma forge a friendship that takes on different forms throughout the book. The story of their friendship is interspersed with memories of Sima's life, her relationship with her husband, Lev, and her long-kept secret.
I really enjoyed this book. Even though there's an overall sadness to the piece, it was an enjoyable read. I particular liked the flashbacks about Sima's past with Lev and their friends, Connie and Art. I found this style of storytelling a perfect fit for this book. The background information filled in the story nicely and added a hint of suspense as the details regarding Sima's secret emerged.
Sima and Tinma's relationship was very believable. Sometimes they were like girlfriends, other times they were more like mother/daughter. Sima seemed so sad and lost. Her shop was a success, yet Tinma reminded her of her unfilled dreams. She envied Tinma's lifestyle and relationships, yet tried to protect her from making the same mistakes she did. I really felt sorry for her.
The whole lingerie shop had me intrigued. Of course, I've walked by stores like that, but I've always bought my underwear at a department store and haven't ventured into the world of specialized fittings for that kind of stuff. I did find it interesting, though, so maybe one day I'll put aside my shyness and travel into unknown territory. ;)
mezuzah (page 31): small parchment scroll with biblical passages
mikvah (page 188): ritual bath for purification among Orthodox Jews
yeshiva (page 281): orthodox Jewish seminary
For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit Penguin's website.
For more information about the author, please visit Ilana Stanger-Ross's website.
I'd like to thank those nice people at Penguin for this review copy.
Sima's Undergarments for Women by Ilana Stanger Ross, Penguin, ©2009. ISBN 9780143117483(Trade paperback), 317p.