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the war of the rosens
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THE WAR OF THE ROSENS, which has garnered critical acclaim, won the 2008 Independent Publisher Book Award in Religious Fiction, and was nominated for the Sophie Brody Medal, an award for the most distinguished contribution to Jewish Literature for Adults.

the war of the rosens THE WAR OF THE ROSENS explores the timeless world of childhood—raw pain, bitter injustice, dark humor, achingly brilliant flashes of insight—and the journey toward the "promised" land of adulthood. Ten-year-old Emma, a budding poet, determinedly seeks answers to questions about the nature of good and evil, the existence of God and the meaning of religion. She tries to come to terms with her socialist/communist, culturally Jewish, atheist family, while secretly visiting the local Catholic church and praying to the Virgin Mary. Emma is in all of us. She's the conscious voice within that seeks the answers to life and wonders if anyone is listening. Her exploration of faith and religion is universal. In THE WAR OF THE ROSENS Emma gives voice to the questions that everyone faces at some point, as she grapples with the meaning of spirituality.

Check out the Reader's Guide (PDF format).

For more information and to buy the book, click here.

To read an interview with Janice Eidus about THE WAR OF THE ROSENS, click here.

Check out Sheila Bender's Writing Childhood's Dark Side on Writing It Real, which she wrote about THE WAR OF THE ROSENS.

Read Janice's essay "MY MOTHER/MY WRITING: TURNING CHILDHOOD MEMORIES INTO FICTION" about her relationship to her mother and its effect upon her writing—particularly THE WAR OF THE ROSENS. It appears in Mother's Union, a blog about mothering.

Janice writes about My Sibling/Myself on Caroline Leavittveille's blog.


"It took all of about thirty seconds for me to be drawn into this beautifully written family saga set in the 1960's in the Bronx...these multi-dimensional characters might have been your classmates, neighbors or cousins or friends; that's how tangible and real they seem."
—JEWISH BOOKWORLD (to read the full review in PDF format, click here)

   Eidus is a camouflage artist. Her sparkling novel Urban Bliss (1994) has a dark underside, while beams of light struggle to break through the gray pall over this complex coming-of-age novel. It,s 1965, and the unhappy Rosens live in the projects in the Bronx along with a diverse array of other Jewish families. Hot tempered Leo, who runs a humble candy store, is a rabid atheist who tries to inoculate his two daughters against religion. His meek wife, a migraine-prone drudge with a ,predilection for Doom and Gloom,0/00 tows the line, but May, 13 and burdened with a lazy eye, regularly beseeches God and longs for glamour and romance. Precocious 10-year-old Emma is a budding poet drawn to the Virgin Mary and deeply concerned about what it means to be a bad or good Jew. As the Rosens are cruelly tested, Eidus works out a calculus of guilt, fear, and love. Grim and incisive, caustically humorous, and affecting, Eidus, drama of moral reckoning is rendered with barbed detail to yield what Leo calls "The Truth With a Capitol T."
—Donna Seaman, BOOKLIST

   In Eidus's confident fifth book, it's 1965, and 10-year-old cutie-pie Emma Rosen is navigating the rough seas of preadolescence and her temperamental Jewish family in a lower-middle-income Bronx housing project. Her often violent father, Leo, a self-righteous atheist who craves attention, dreamed of being a great novelist but instead owns a candy store; his casual flirtation with a sultry Jamaican widow threatens to blossom into a full-blown affair. Annette, Emma's migraine-plagued doormat of a mother, can barely remember her younger, prettier, idealistic self as she slaves away in the kitchen, the butt of Leo's tantrums. Emma, a budding poet who prays to the Virgin Mary, inspires intense animosity in her 13-year-old sister, May, which burns with the same red-hot intensity as May's infatuation for a classmate with princely blond good looks and manners very different from the Rosens. An old-fashioned coming-of-age tale, the book soon grows dark with crisis. Eidus (Faithful Rebecca) illuminates the inner lives of young girls on the cusp of womanhood and demonstrates abundant compassion for her often prickly characters.

"Whenever I write a book review, I try to come up with a catchy lede. The idea is to lure you in so that you'll read all the way to the end and I will have communicated my point about this or that subject. Don't ask me why but I get a smug satisfaction whenever I realize someone has read something I've written. It's even better if they enjoyed reading it.

As you may have guessed by now, I've had some trouble coming up with something catchy for Janice Eidus' novel, "The War of the Rosens." But don't let that fool you into thinking anything bad—this is a very good book and one of the most compelling stories I've read in a while.

The action in the novel centers on 10-year-old Emma, an introspective girl growing up in the Bronx in the 1960s. She makes the best of life despite her dysfunctional Jewish family.

Her father, Leo, is an outspoken atheist who owns his own candy store, wears his leftist politics on his sleeve and dreams of writing a great novel. Small things annoy him and he loses his temper almost daily. On occasion, he gets into a fistfights with strangers and he hits his daughters.

He's one of the stronger characters I've come across recently. Not only is he physically confrontational, he's something of an intellectual bully as well. Regardless, it's hard to argue with some of his sentiments. Here's one example:
Despite the old saying to the contrary, there are indeed atheists in foxholes, and he's Exhibit A, with nobody, and nothing, to pray to. Inside, there is an emptiness. But do the truly religious fare any better when their children are ill? They pray to God that their children will recover, and some do, but many don't. Supposedly, God calls those children to "a better place," "a higher place." But, by doing so, He has surely, and deliberately, ignored the parents' prayers. Isn't it worse to feel that God has deliberately chosen not to hear you, than to acknowledge that no God exists to hear you?
His wife, Annette, also considers herself an atheist with left-leaning political views. But, she doesn't discuss her ideas on politics very often anymore. Over the years, her husband's domineering personality has shoved Annette's confidence to the floor. The once-loving couple have grown far apart. By the time we meet her, Annette is suffering through life catering to Leo's needs in the kitchen and in the bedroom. Leo demeans her when she fails to live up to his expectations. She suffers migraine headaches and vomits from the stress of her 'doom and gloom' family life.

Emma's older sister, May, is 13 years old. She's an obsessive teenager who dreams of marrying a boy in her class named Marvin Ludwig. The two of them will move to California where Marvin will practice medicine and May will live like her favorite Hollywood star, the glamorous Kim Novak.

As much as May's love for Marvin is an obsession, so is her hatred of Emma. She can be cruel to her younger sister and lashes out at her in terrible fits. She also is hypercritical of her mother.

This is one of those 'life observed' types of novels. We learn about ourselves by watching the characters and Eidus excels at creating compelling characters. She does it gracefully and that's why I've spent most of this review talking about the Rosen family.

It's quite a feat to write a novel about a 10-year-old girl. There are not many authors who could do it. But, Eidus did it well. She should enjoy some smug satisfaction knowing she got me to read all the way to the end. And, I enjoyed it."

"The perennially repeated family dynamic is rephrased here in pitch perfect tones: life caught acutely at its most stubborn worst, communication shot to hell. It takes a catastrophe to shake the mix and what flushes out is not a fairy tale."
—FREE WILLIAMSBURG (to read the full review in PDF format, click here)

"...we are entertained by wit, dark humor, dialogue that sounds like real human beings speaking, and a plot that coils back on itself with masterful structure. With The War of the Rosens, Janice Eidus, author of four other novels, joins the first rank of contemporary American novelists."
—ROY SORRELS, CULTUREVULTURE.NET (to read the full review in PDF format, click here)

   The heroine of... The War of the Rosens... is a young poet of great imagination, who struggles with questions about her volatile family, the nature of God and why evil coexists with good. The novel is set in a Bronx housing project in the mid-1960s, and Eidus portrays the setting and era with grace and wit.
—Sandee Brawarsky, JEWISH WOMEN

   I ... felt as if I were reading Isabel Allende ... for Jewish Girls!
—Maya Escobar, visual artist

   ... Janice Eidus's The War of the Rosens ... succeeds in exploring belief without making fun of it. Eidus provides a glimpse into the equally disconcerting worlds of devout Judaism and passionate disbelief.

   Janice Eidus' writing is intensely moving and fiercely intelligent. With bittersweet humor, and without sentimentality or nostalgia, she eloquently evokes the diverse voices of the adults and children of the colorful, eccentric Rosen family. She vividly captures not only the world of the Bronx in the mid-sixties, but also the world of one Jewish family struggling to survive in a harsh world charged with beauty and possibility.
—Vivian Gornick, author of FIERCE ATTACHMENTS

   Janice Eidus is the new Jewish female John Steinbeck from the outer boroughs ..."
Marion Winik, NPR commentator & author of FIRST COMES LOVE

   Conflicting cultures lie at the heart of The War of the Rosens... With the open debates and bestselling books these days about atheism, this novel with its well-defined characters ultimately is about finding redemption in the cross currents of belief and disbelief.
Allan Caruba, editor,

   THE WAR OF THE ROSENS is as fierce, unflinching and tender as its feisty ten year-old heroine, Emma Rosen. Growing up in the mid-60's in the Bronx, Emma carries the weight of the world and the fate of her volatile, unpredictable family on her small shoulders, particularly since her parents forbid her to believe in any higher power. Eidus explores the timeless world of childhood—raw pain, bitter injustice, dark humor, achingly brilliant flashes of insight—and the elusive promised land of adulthood with clarity and grace.
—Ruth Knafo Setton, author of THE ROAD TO FEZ

   THE WAR OF THE ROSENS, with exquisite language and a huge heart, introduces us to Emma, a budding poet seeking answers to questions about the nature of good and evil, while struggling with an alternately brutal and loving father, a meek and "lost" mother, and a spiteful older sister. When tragedy strikes the family, it is Emma, with a tenacious spirit and an indomitable imagination, who, through the power of love and the force of the written word, instigates her family's salvation. The novel's title is delightful irony, as it becomes clear that this family is a metaphor and microcosm not only of the world's sorrows but also its joys. Set in the 1960s's, Janice Eidus has written a novel of redemption for our time here and now.
—Sue William Silverman, author of BECAUSE I REMEMBER TERROR, FATHER, I REMEMBER YOU, winner of the Associated Writing Program's Award for Creative Nonfiction; editor of Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction

   I've enjoyed THE WAR OF THE ROSENS the way I always loved Bernard Malamud: well-detailed, on point, characters you can see and touch.
David Unger, author of LIFE IN THE DAMN TROPICS: A NOVEL

   THE WAR OF THE ROSENS renders a troubled Jewish family living in the Bronx projects in the 1960s with the complexity, subtlety, and marvelously accurate recollected detail of Alice McDermott in her depiction of Long Island Catholic families. Emma Rosen and her older sister May come starkly alive and stay in memory.
Sharon Solwitz, author of BLOOD AND MILK: STORIES

   THE WAR OF THE ROSENS is fabulous. It brought me completely into the world of the Bronx and the Rosen family. I couldn't stop reading. It's a great story, so well told, moving completely and seamlessly from one point of view to another.

   When I find a book that invites me in and won't let me go, I'm in heaven. The War of the Rosens did that. This is a beautiful, gripping read. I highly recommend it."
Victoria Moran, author of CREATING A CHARMED LIFE

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