Friday, 9 September 2011

Laura Shaine Cunningham's Sleeping Arrangements



I am so glad I found this.  I don't read a lot of non-fiction, and very few biographies, and when I do they tend to be memoirs - just part of a life.  This is one such.  Lily lived with her mother, whilst waiting for the war to be over and her father to join them again.   But although she has a name, its likely that he was never there in the first place, perhaps her birth was the result of a very short affair or a one night stand.  Lily and her mother Rose set up home in a studio flat in a tower block in a Jewish area of the Bronx, New York.  They enjoy life and everything is perfect - until Rose has to go into hospital and never comes home.  Lily is eight years old.  Uncle Gabe, who has been looking after her whilst her mother is away, and his elder brother Len, make up the family unit by moving in with Lily, and have to learn to cook, to do the housework, the laundry ( in some cases with limited success!).  Later, having moved to a bigger apartment in the same block, their mother, and therefore Lily's grandmother, a Russian Jewess who shares Lily's bedroom and is prone to stealing clothes, hairgrips, cheap jewellery and anything else she can grab from Lily, completes the family - or in Etka from Minsk's own words "mein family".
Tuna fishcakes or popcorn for breakfast  - "well, its corn, isn't it?  Cornflakes, cornbread, why not popcorn?"; clothes all sent out weekly to the laundry, and therefore always "fully creased" on return;  Uncle Len cooking in a pith helmet.  This little family is truly eccentric.  And how lucky she was that the uncles were family, or she might have been taken into care and fostered, instead of being loved by this odd couple.  It was a pleasure to read.   I loved it.