Rue des Rosiers is one of those rare books that deals intelligently with the complexity of things: Relationships between sisters, ambivalent feelings about an abortion (while still firmly on the side of women having choice and controlling their bodies), Israel and Palestine, the legacy and on-going trauma of the Holocaust, the persistence of anti-Semitism, class and privilege, sexual violence, and the experience of displaced people and refugees.
The book is also a lot of fun — long alcohol-soaked Parisian lunches at historic literary establishments, curious facts about how the Paris streets are cleaned. One of my favourite scenes is a slapstick episode after a difficult interaction between the main character and her sister. The story brings us face-to-face with the conflicted and competing feelings of love and anger that run through families.
This is the achievement of a good writer who can show us what it feels like to live in another person’s skin.
Tregebov’s story makes us aware of the the reality of contingency, the constraints in our lives (especially those imposed by forces of sexism and racism), and the necessity to make conscious choices about who we are, what we value, and how we want to live — and to remember always to celebrate life itself.