My Sunday Book Review – The Yiddish Gangster’s Daughter by Joan Lipinsky Cochran. I had this book on my Kindle and finally got to it while on vacation, buried among many books. I originally purchased the book because of my interest in the old mobster days of Miami Beach. Combine that history with a good old family saga, it was a fun read.
Since separating from her philandering husband, Boca Raton writer Becks Ruchinsky has struggled to build a closer relationship with her quirky and contentious father, Tootsie, who lives in a retirement home. One evening, as she and her father are relaxing on the home’s front porch, an elderly woman accuses Tootsie of having murdered her husband fifty years earlier.
Tootsie admits to ratting on the man, who’d cheated their Jewish syndicate boss out of thousands of dollars, but denies killing the widow’s husband. He also admits to having friends in the Jewish mafia and shares stories about his experiences. But the more time she spends with her father, the more convinced Becks becomes that Tootsie is lying about his involvement. Determined to discover the truth about her dad’s past, she sets out on a journey to undercover his darkest secrets. She learns he worked for the Jewish mafia –running numbers for the Cuban lottery, beating up Nazi sympathizers, and smuggling arms to Israeli independence fighters. When she learns that he murdered his best friend and, possibly, his own brother, she must decide if she can accept his criminal past – or cut him out of her life.
The Yiddish Gangster’s Daughter also explores the impact our parents’ relationships have on our own. Throughout the book, Becks challenges her father on his infidelity toward her mother and becomes frustrated by his refusal to acknowledge that what he did was hurtful to his entire family. She’s upset when Tootsie minimizes her husband’s affair and encourages her to take him back. Ultimately, Becks realizes that she cannot forgive her husband for cheating until she comes to terms with her father’s infidelities…and her mother’s willingness to put up with them.
A gripping and thought-provoking murder mystery, this award-winning novel explores the colorful and precarious world of the 1940s and 1950s Jewish mafia . . . and the limits of familial love.
My 5 Star Review:
Becks Ruchinsky, culinary writer, brings us into this family saga/murder mystery. Becks is going through a separation with her husband Daniel and struggles with taking him back because of memories of her mother putting up with her own philandering father. Despite past hurts, Becks maintains a relationship with her father Tootsie, where she drives from her Boca Raton, Florida residence to his retirement home in Miami every Sunday to keep the family ties alive. Through some of their conversations, Becks learns about the some of the antics her father participated in, in his earlier gangster years where he got caught up with the Jewish mob that reigned Miami in the 50s.
Becks’s curiosity gets the better of her after learning about some of her father’s family secrets and decides to do some investigating of her own into some of the shady characters Tootsie hung out with but refuses to get more into detail about. The more she learns, the more she questions her father’s morality.
Becks finds her own life spiraling into a world of trouble when she digs a little too far and finds the past coming back to bite, threatening her own life. When she finally learns the truth about what transpired, how her uncle really died, and a few other close to home murders of the past, Becks questions her own family values and wonders if she can continue on with a relationship with her father after finding out his crimes – wondering if their relationship can continue once the truth comes out.
The story is told from both, Becks’ and Tootsie’s perspective. Well written, odd moments of humor and well researched on the era of the ‘old days’ in Miami Beach with plenty of Yiddish expressions used by old timer Tootsie.