Synopses & Reviews
A wonderful fiction debut, Being Esther
gives voice to Esther Lustig, an extraordinary woman who has lived a conventional life, in this touching exploration of aging.
In spare, unsentimental prose, Miriam Karmel provides readers with one of literature's finest portraits of the last months of a woman's life. Sad and amusing, unpretentious and ambitious, Karmel's prose brings understanding and tremendous empathy to the character of Esther Lustig, a woman who readers will recognize and embrace. Born to parents who fled the shtetl, Esther Lustig has led a seemingly conventional life marriage, two children, a life in suburban Chicago. Now, at the age of 85, her husband is deceased, her children have families of their own, and most of her friends are gone. Even in this diminished condition, life has its moments of richness, as well as its memorable characters. Being Esther reflects the need, as Esther puts it, for better roadmaps for growing old.
"Karmel's novel of womanhood, the love and strife between mothers and daughters, marital dead zones, and the baffling metamorphosis of age is covertly complex, quietly incisive, and stunning in its emotional richness." Donna Seaman, Booklist
Deeply moving....Karmel's subtle, psychologically acute rendering of Esther's life reveals a woman who has lived fully, if not flamboyantly; loved deeply; kept her dignity, irrepressible wit, and essential humanity. Being Esther is a spare book with cosmic implications and a huge heart." Lilith Magazine
"The author writes the story of Esther past and present with remarkable tenderness. Readers of any age will long for more Esther." ForeWord
"Being Esther is a poignant story that will be told more often as the population ages...rightfully depicted by Miriam Karmel as a tale worth telling and reading." Miriam Bradman Abrahams, Jewish Book Council
"Karmel's accomplished debut illustrates the bittersweet truth that we live our quotidian lives and we worry about the manner of our leave-taking, but if were lucky, we come to understand, as Esther does, that despite our bewilderment at finding ourselves old, 'our lives are enriched by the minor interactions that present themselves every day.'" Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Being Esther is a poignant, true-to-life portrait of a woman growing old that will linger long in readers' minds and hearts.” St. Paul Pioneer Press
"That Karmel, who is younger than 85, could capture so well the inner life of the old is a tribute to her powers of observation and empathy. That she could express this life with such clarity and wit is a tribute to her writing skill, for Being Esther is anything but a dirge. It is a delight." The American Jewish World
About the Author
Miriam Karmel has worked professionally as a newspaper reporter and magazine editor, and most recently as a freelance writer specializing in medicine and health. Her journalism has appeared in AARP magazine and Minnesota Women's Press. Her fiction has won numerous regional prizes, and her stories have been published in Bellevue Literary Review, Minnesota Monthly, and anthologized in Milkweed's Fiction on a Stick. She lives in Minneapolis, MN, and Sandisfield, MA. Being Esther is her first novel.