My Moth­er’s Son: A Novel

By – May 1, 2018

My Mother’s Son is a mov­ing com­ing-of-age sto­ry spiced with dark fam­i­ly secrets, his­tor­i­cal ref­er­ences, dirty pol­i­tics, and poignant immi­grants’ tales that beau­ti­ful­ly evoke life in 1950s Boston.

Now a suc­cess­ful radio racon­teur, Joel rem­i­nisces about his child­hood and the years beyond. When you’re a kid,” he laments, they don’t always tell you the truth.” This is the account of how the thought­ful, clever, and open nar­ra­tor finds and unfolds the truths that were woven into the lies, exag­ger­a­tions, and fam­i­ly lore he’s been told.

Joel and his broth­er Steven grow up in a time of close-knit extend­ed fam­i­lies, play­ing base­ball, rabid­ly root­ing for home­town teams, dis­cov­er­ing girls, col­lect­ing stamps and an appre­ci­a­tion for his­to­ry, and watch­ing TV pio­neers emerge. It’s also a time dur­ing which the Kore­an War raged and neigh­bors went to fight and die, the polio epi­dem­ic was a con­stant threat, and Holo­caust sur­vivors didn’t share their expe­ri­ences — and yet the quirks and dif­fer­ences among rel­a­tives, neigh­bors, and friends were kind­ly accept­ed and read­i­ly acknowledged.

Joel’s fam­i­ly saga emanates from his beloved grand­fa­ther. Papa suc­ceeds in his new Amer­i­ca by using his wits and resource­ful­ness to carve out a niche for his fam­i­ly. He becomes involved in Boston pol­i­tics at a time when Jew­ish and Ital­ian immi­grants worked with­in the peck­ing order of the Irish city boss­es. Joel and Steven are entrust­ed with the week­ly deliv­er­ing and receiv­ing of envelopes” as they bicy­cle all over town. They’re exposed to polit­i­cal intrigue, a base­ball scan­dal, and a col­or­ful group of men of all ethnicities.

The deeply human rela­tion­ships of the char­ac­ters are explored in many flash­backs and reveal unex­pect­ed, humor­ous, and touch­ing plot twists. Kristall­nacht, the Kennedy machine, kid­nap­pings, depres­sion, and mur­ders all add lay­ers to the narrative.

This well-craft­ed, com­pas­sion­ate, and wit­ty debut nov­el is an emo­tion­al and enter­tain­ing read. David Hir­sh­berg art­ful­ly con­structs Joel’s life and drops hints and clues as the sto­ry sweeps along. The com­pli­cat­ed back sto­ries of betray­als, loy­al­ty, and love are engross­ing­ly inter­twined with the present.

My Mother’s Son explores today’s val­ues along with the past as Joel’s strug­gles lead him to real­ize life is nev­er sim­ple. The many half-truths and cloud­ed secrets he’s dealt with over the years final­ly become clear as Joel real­izes he tru­ly is his mother’s son. This jour­ney from inno­cence to accep­tance is sat­is­fy­ing, rich, and reflective.

Reni­ta Last is a mem­ber of the Nas­sau Region of Hadassah’s Exec­u­tive Board. She has coor­di­nat­ed the Film Forum Series for the Region and served as Pro­gram­ming and Health Coor­di­na­tors and as a mem­ber of the Advo­ca­cy Committee.

She has vol­un­teered as a docent at the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau Coun­ty teach­ing the all- impor­tant lessons of the Holo­caust and tol­er­ance. A retired teacher of the Gift­ed and Tal­ent­ed, she loves par­tic­i­pat­ing in book clubs and writ­ing projects.