Rue Des Rosiers
Coteau Books / 12 August 2019

Rue Des Rosiersby Rhea TregebovPublished by Coteau BooksReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$24.95 ISBN 9-781550-506990 Rue Des Rosiers by Vancouverite Rhea Tregebov is not just an exemplary novel, it’s also an important book that examines anti-Semitism and empathetically puts faces on the victims and aggressors, and my hope is that the novel receives the major attention it warrants. In this richly-layered story, multi-genre author Tregebov introduces us to 1980s Toronto and Paris, and the life of 25-year-old Jewish protagonist Sarah – intelligent, questioning, and floundering – who feels the aftershocks of the generations-earlier Holocaust and suffers nightmares she can’t explain. Readers can expect credibility and precise craft on every page as Sarah, the youngest of three daughters raised in Winnipeg, wrestles with a long-ago abortion, sibling dynamics, career choices, an emotionally-wrenching Holocaust history class, and her relationship with upwardly-mobile Michael, a lawyer who invites her to join him in Paris. Sarah despises the word “Jewess,” and even dislikes the word “Jew”: “I always hear the slur,” she says. “Hear all this weight behind the word: history, the war.” She makes almost every yes-no decision with the turn of a lucky penny. This is also the story of Laila, who’s come to…

The Knife Sharpener’s Bell
Coteau Books / 29 February 2012

The Knife Sharpener’s Bell by Rhea Tregebov Published by Coteau Books Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $21.00 ISBN 978-1-55050-408-8 Recommendation: if you buy The Knife Sharpener’s Bell, by Saskatchewan-born writer Rhea Tregebov, budget your time accordingly, because you’ll not be able to put this gripping historical novel down. Where to begin? The plot? The story starts in Winnipeg, 1935, with the narrator, Annette, age nine, reluctantly seeing her idealist father off at the train station. He’s returning to Russia, the homeland, because he sees capitalism failing in the west amid the chaos of the Great Depression, and he believes “a planned economy” is “the only rational approach;” because it’ll make his shrewish wife happy; and because the Soviet Union is “a good place for the Jews.” After the visit, he’s convinced that his family must make their home in the east. Once back in Europe, however, the parents stay in Odessa and Annette and brother Ben continue to Moscow, where it’s safer. Except it isn’t. Or perhaps I should speak of the writing: Tregebov’s novel is literature. When she paints the scene of Annette in the middle of a war zone, among a river of people trying to get to…

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