The Victory Gardens of Brooklyn: A Novel
by Merrill Joan Gerber

Syracuse U. Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-815-60892-9.
Reviewed by Judith Helburn
Posted on 03/10/2008

Fiction: Multi-Cultural; Fiction: Historical

Merrill Joan Gerber opens the door of a tenement household over a hundred years ago and invites us into the sounds, smells, lives, and drama of a Jewish immigrant family struggling to survive on New York's Lower East Side. In this family, Ava is abruptly separated from her beloved, handsome, philandering father; then from Rachel, her Mama, and her brother as Mama works as a midwife to pay for a divorce.

Ava finds herself an unwelcome guest in Mama's sister's home until Mama marries a cold, tyrannical tailor so that her family can be together once again. Ava finds refuge in school and tries to be invisible as she is excluded again and again when her half-sisters are born. She finds meaningful work, then marries the brother of her friend Tessie. Here the saga begins to include her younger stepsisters, Musetta and Gilda. Although Gerber's three generations of women dominate this rich stew of mothers and daughters, aunts and uncles, a couple of sons and a couple of husbands during the two World Wars have a deep psychological influence upon how the women respond to life's joys and difficulties.

The Victory Gardens allows us to witness the passions, both positive and negative, and personal growth of four Jewish women. Gerber is skilled at inviting the reader into the story with her strong, realistic prose. This drama of the not-so-distant past captured my interest from beginning to end.

Merrill Joan Gerber is a prize-winning novelist and short-story writer. She teaches fiction writing at the California Institute of Technology.

Authors/Publicists: For promotion purposes, you may quote excerpts of up to 200 words from our reviews, with a link to the page on which the review is posted. ©Copyright to the review is held by the writer (review posting date appears on the review page). If you wish to reprint the full review, you may do so ONLY with her written permission, and with a link to Contact our Book Review Editor (bookreviews at with your request and she will forward it to the appropriate person.


Visit us on Facebook and Twitter and goodreads.

Buy books online through by simply clicking on the book cover or title. Your purchase will support our work of encouraging all women to tell their stories.
This title is currently available ONLY as an e-book