Friday, July 23, 2010

Review: Sima's Undergarments for Women

In the network of basement shops that serve Brooklyn's neighborhoods, Sima Goldner runs a lingerie shop renowned among locals for superior bra fitting. When Sima hires a young Israeli woman to be her new assistant, she begins an exciting new friendship. Timna, the new employee, reminds Sima of the opportunities and excitement of her youth. But these memories are not entirely welcome, and Sima is reminded of the disappointments of her own youth. Infertility left Sima and her husband childless, and their marriage distant. In Timna Sima sees the potential for everything she missed, and she becomes obsessed with engineering Timna's future. For Sima the relationship quickly moves beyond friendship to obsession. Her memories and her new friendship force Sima to face the problems in her marriage and her past.

This novel is a study of how long problems can fester and how miscommunication can divide. Ultimately Sima's problems cannot be swept under the carpet, no matter how persistently she tries. For years Sima avoided her unhappiness by throwing her energies into her shop. When she foists her problems onto a living, breathing person, Timna, she is forced to come to terms with them.

Sima herself is something of a trainwreck. The reader knows her actions are going to blow up in her face, and yet Sima is blind to the consequences. I couldn't help but cringe every time Sima berated her husband or obsessed about Timna, in this some of the reading becomes a bit uncomfortable. That said, this is a light, summer read. Despite some heavy themes, Sima is a bit to cartoonish to be a deep character. This was a quick read, and a reasonably enjoyable one.

Ilana Stanger-Ross, Sima's Undergarments for Women (Penguin, 2010) ISBN: 0143117483

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