Aboard the boat that deposits him in 1890s New York, ten-year-old Jack Rubin swears he will become an authentic American. He refuses to speak his native Polish or Yiddish, instead, learning English in his new home of the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Believing the wealthy Americans living in the best neighborhoods are The American Dream, Jack resolves to become like one of them.
He soon finds himself busy with American life—getting married, running businesses, delving into Jewish theology, and raising his daughter. Throughout his life, Jack checks himself to see if he has achieved his goal of becoming a true American, and, despite his wealth and success, he believes he always falls short.
Jack’s daughter, Ruthie, is born into the life Jack strived so hard to achieve. She is wealthy, educated, and American, but she despises her lifestyle. Growing up in the bohemian New York of the Roaring Twenties, Ruthie becomes an insatiable reader, and an even more insatiable writer. After one of her short stories is noticed by a big book publisher, Ruthie and her editor enter into a relationship that ultimately tests their faith, families, and lives.
The Great Depression follows the dramatic events that unfold, and, in the in the depths of the country’s despair, the Rubin family will be pushed down paths that they had never imagined. But through it all, Jack discovers the heart of what it means to be an authentic American.
“The narrative…is seamless and well-paced. The dialogue avoids parody, and the setting provides an informative portrait of the Jewish immigrant experience…offering insight into how religion shapes culture.” -Kirkus Review