One of those books you want to reread as soon as it is over!
This is the 4th book I have read of Rebecca Goldstein's, and this was my 2nd favorite (after the superb Mind-Body Problem). I liked the "generational" aspect where we follow Sasha (Sorel) from early childhood in a Schluftchev shtetl to present day USA where she has a grown daughter (Chloe) and a granddaughter just about to get married (Phoebe). I must admit I enjoyed the early childhood and early adult descriptions of Sasha the best - here there is a rich sense of storytelling, and the human characterizations are gripping and vivid. Sasha evetually rejects and leaves behind the old-fashioned Jewish ways of the shtetl and becomes a great stage actress and part of the Jewish intellectual life ("The Enlightenment") in prewar Warsaw.
The story in the present is also good, but I thought Sasha's antics were described with too much cliche and suffered a bit from the "feminine-writer syndrome". In addition, the daughter and granddaughter stay very one-dimensional. Mazel means LUCK in Yiddish, and this book very successfully plays with its meaning throughout someone's life. Finally, Phoebe's decision about going back to traditional Jewish ways is one of the best contrasts in the story...perfectly unimaginable and understandable at the same time!
An enjoyable historical novel, mainly about Jews in pre-war Poland. Its strength was the evocation of an enticing, vanished world of the main protagonist--its weakness, a failure to fully realize Jewish life in the United States and the motivations of the characters of the protagonist's daughter and granddaughter. I also expected a lot from this writer, the author of The Mind-Body Problem, so I might be judging a good, solid, enjoyable novel for not being a perfect, excellent novel!