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Reviewed by Pikasho Deka for Readers' Favorite
Street Corner Dreams by Florence Reiss Kraut follows the story of an immigrant Jewish-American family from their arrival in America before World War I to the early 1940s. After her pregnant sister Esther dies giving birth while sailing across the Atlantic, Golda Daneshev finds herself marrying her former brother-in-law, Ben Feinstein. She ends up raising Esther's son, Morty, as her own. Through grit and determination, the little family establishes a life for themselves in Brooklyn but has constant run-ins with the criminal gangs of the neighborhood. During the Great Depression, Ben loses a lot of money, leading him to take drastic measures that inadvertently force Morty to deal with the mob. Put in a precarious position, Morty must somehow quit working for the mob while keeping his family and the love of his life safe from their clutches.
Florence Reiss Kraut draws a realistic portrait of Jewish immigrant families chasing the American dream in the first half of the 20th century. Street Corner Dreams is one of those stories that showcase the hardships and struggles of American children of immigrants who face the dilemma of trying to live their own lives while honoring the sacrifices of their parents. Kraut has a firm grip on the narrative, which is nicely paced and very character-driven. Each member of the Feinstein family has their agency and inner conflicts that make them feel well-realized and memorable as characters. From the beginning, I was wholly invested in the characters and the plot. The book ends on a hopeful note, which enhances the ending, is guaranteed to satisfy the readers, and is highly recommended.