Embedded in Canadian and world history, and set in downtown Toronto between 1947 and the turn of the century, The House on Lippincott is a Jewish family saga which weaves together family caring, Holocaust trauma, abuse, aging, betrayal, anti-Semitism, resistance, and celebration, while introducing vital new characters to the Canadian landscape. There is brilliant feminist scholar and thinker, Miriam Himmelfarb, from whose perspective the story unfolds, her parents–Rachael and Daniel–both Holocaust survivors and activists, mysterious Uncle Yacov, and sisters Sondra and Esther. As children of survivors, early on, Miriam and her sisters make a decision which is to haunt them. A woman with heart, the aging Rachael presents her family with yet another harrowing choice. Compelling, passionate, touching. Long buried secrets come to light. Throughout, this novel is engrossing, passionate, captivating. Grounded in the language and conundrums of a Jewish immigrant family, it has the appeal of any novel embedded in a specific culture. At the same time, it extends beyond that culture, and indeed, beyond the Holocaust, bringing us face-to-face with the human condition: our ability to create joy and meaning even under dire circumstances, human suffering, growing up, responsibility, love, betrayal, family ties, the realities of growing old, death and the vulnerability of the human soul.
“The House on Lippincott is at once brilliant, and deeply moving. Set in a Toronto Jewish family where parents “eema” and “abba” are Holocaust survivors, the book masterfully interweaves their agonizing flashbacks and nightmares, horrifying and historically accurate facts of the hell-on-earth that was Auschwitz, and the personal struggles of daughters Miriam, Esther and Sondra. You don’t have to be Jewish or a Holocaust survivor to be moved by this book, because it is so sensitively and honestly written, so compassionate, so human. I rarely cry over a book, but while reading The House on Lippincott my eyes filled up more than once. Burstow’s loving description of the Shabbes (Sabbath) dinners in the Himmelfarb family made me wish my family had observed Shabbes. The character descriptions are so vivid and compelling that the reader is taken inside this family. Burstow’s novel is not only the work of a talented storyteller, it’s a work of love and respect — a mitzvah. I’m urging my children and close friends to read this book.”
~Don Weitz, social justice activist, freelance writer and producer at CKLN
“Bonnie Burstow’s novel is poignant, tough and intelligent. In a distinctly Canadian working through of postmemory, The House on Lippincott takes on the intellectual and political controversies of today, under the shadow of the Holocaust, with respect for the pain and dignity of survivors and their families, and with a warm feeling for Judaism, even the Judaism of atheists.”
~Sara R. Horowitz, Director of the Centre for Jewish Studies at York University, and author of Voicing the Void: Muteness and Memory in Holocaust Fiction
“From the camps of Nazi Germany to the streets of Toronto, The House on Lippincott is a complex family drama, a vivid exploration of the intersection of world history and everyday lives. A novel which I highly recommend, Burstow’s groundbreaking work is at once a fascinating read and an important foray into the personal and the social, into trauma and resilience.”
~Persimmon Blackbridge is a writer and an artist. Her novel Sunnybrook won the Ferro Grumley Fiction Prize (New York City) and, an earlier book, Her Tongue on My Theory, won a Lambda Literary Award (Washington, DC).
“Bonnie Burstow”s wide-ranging novel explores and reveals the aftermath of the Holocaust: its tenacious hold on survivors as well as their second and third generation descendents. This multi-dimensional work moves between memory and contemporary Jewish experience: all shades of feminism, left politics, and religious observance are represented, as are contemporary philosophic disputes. Burstow is to be commended for including in her novel the disturbing truth of Canada’;s heartless response to the victims of the Holocaust.”
~Frieda Forman, founder and coordinator of the Women”s Educational Resources Centre, OISE/UT, and editor of the anthologies Taking Our Time: Feminist Perspectives on Temporality and Found Treasures: Stories by Yiddish Women Writers.
“Genocide is an event whose boundaries are unstable. This is particularly so for survivors and their families. The inheritance of Holocaust memories are indeterminate because they presume a difficult, personally confrontational question: how will you live when histories of violence and violation cannot be contained? How will you live within the presence of Auschwitz? Burstow provides a compelling portrait of the Himmelfarb family as it struggles with the everyday realities of this question. The House on Lippincott is an important, imaginative contribution to our understanding of how violent histories unsettle lives across generations.”
~Roger I. Simon, Director of the University of Toronto’s Centre for Media and Culture in Education and author of The Touch of the Past: Remembrance, Learning, and Ethics.