• Up from Orchard Street

  • By: Eleanor Widmer
  • Narrated by: Lorna Raver
  • Length: 15 hrs and 44 mins
  • 4.1 out of 5 stars (460 ratings)

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Up from Orchard Street  By  cover art

Up from Orchard Street

By: Eleanor Widmer
Narrated by: Lorna Raver
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Publisher's Summary

Three generations of Roths live together in a crowded tenement flat. Long-widowed Manya is the family's head and its heart. She's renowned throughout the neighborhood for her cooking, and every noontime the front room of the flat turns into Manya's private restaurant. But Manya is no soft touch, except, perhaps, where her granddaughter Elka is concerned. Precocious Elka is her closest companion and confidante. Through Elka's eyes we come to know the fascinating characters who move in and out of the Roths' lives. Money may have been short, but opinions were not, and their tart tongues and lively humor abound. In this riveting story lies the heart of the American immigrant experience: a novel at once wise, funny, poignant, anguishing, exultant, and bursting with love.
©2005 Eleanor Widmer (P)2005 Blackstone Audiobooks

Critic Reviews

  • 2005 Audie Award Nominee, Solo Narration (Female)

"Poignant snapshot of a long-lost era and place....[This] first novel offers pungent, nostalgic vignettes of Jewish life on Manhattan's Lower East Side." (Kirkus Reviews)

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What listeners say about Up from Orchard Street

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Tenement Life From a Child's Point of View

As the author states in the afterward of the book-this book is part biography, part fiction and all true. It tells a sweeping story of living in poverty in the tenements of NYC through the eyes of young Elka. The book reminded me of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn at first. However, I can understand why it isn't on a youth reading list anywhere. This story is peppered with frank talk about sex, infidelity and off-color jokes. Much of this was unnecessary for the story. It is a shame that this content makes it inappropriate for young people because it is an engaging tale filled with growth, insight and change.

I agree with another reviewer that I would have liked a better time line. I found myself wondering what year it was when the action took place and hoping for an easier tracking of time progression. Instead there were vague mentions of "the war". Having firmer grounding in time would have made the story fit more easily into the world going on around it.

Lorna Raver, the narrator, did a great job. I really enjoyed her enthusiasm. It was a long book but the listening time flew by and my attention was held effortlessly. Parts of the book are difficult listening, as the poverty, chronic illness, filth and constant struggle are harsh realities. That said, it is a good story and I'm glad I listened.

33 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Another Favorite

The list just gets longer and longer of favorite books I have listened to. This one has definitely found a spot on that list.

Set in NYC with a Jewish immigrant family prior to, through, and after the Depression. We learn about three generations of a wonderful family as they triumph together. The vignettes are amusing, sad, real, and loving.

I do love ethnic tales because we can always find something in our own background to identify with, regardless of the culture. This is no exception.

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

My Life

Could not believe it, I still smell the sour pickles,nuts and dried fruits.The urine in the stairwells,my mother would hit the steps to scare the rats & the drunkes.I remeber my mother shoveling coal in some tenaments. Then we would get slippers in the lower eastside for 5 cents put them on the pushcart and sell for 20cents if we could get it. Classified as non-fiction for me. I remeber mom!To Life!

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent

I love books told from the point of view of a child. They are truly amazing. Like The Secret Lives of Bees and The Book Thief, this book is the world through the eyes of a 6-14 year old growing up in 1930'2 New York in a Jewish Ghetto. It is about family and the strong ties that bind us to those we love, both blood and friends. This is an excellent story and the characters are lovely. The narrator is EXCELLENT. She did the variety of people, ages, accents with ease. I highly recommend this story.

9 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars

Entertaining

While this book was no great piece of literature, it was an entertaining, engaging story. My Italian grandmother grew up in the NYC tenements and many of her stories were similar although her family was actually poorer than the one described. I think the child's perspective was a good approach, as many of the harsh realities were downplayed. The Tenement Museum in NYC has apartments decorated as they were in this time period - quite interesting.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A delightful book

This is a charming and heart-warming book. The characters are beautifully portrayed by the reader and her accented dialogue adds to the pleasure of the book. My background is very different from the NYC Jewish culture and yet I could relate so well to the family. I loved the characters and I really hope that there will be a sequel.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A delightful story

This book is a fictionalized memoir but reads more like a memoir. The story is narrated by the granddaughter who is very likeable. It is set in early 1900s New York City in the Jewish district. It is about a woman who emigrated from Russia with her husband, who shortly dies shortly after they reach the US. They have one child and she must raise him alone. Instead of growing up and leaving home, he marries and brings his wife to live with his mother in their one bedroom apartment. The couple have two children whom the grandmother lovingly raises, with the beautiful but empty-headed mother's blessing.

The grandmother runs a restaurant in their apartment. If you don't know much about Jewish food, you will when you finish as it is much discussed. It also makes one realize how easy life is now compared to the one this family lived. The family is close and the neighbors all know everyone's business. The story is funny and sad, and very entertaining. I had a hard time putting it down, which is about all I ask of a book.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Delightful

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and the narrator added to the spell it cast for me. Maybe things are a little sugary, as the one completely hostile reviewer indicated, but I didn't find it terribly unrealistic. The author could have made more of the difficulties in her family's life and of the character flaws in her relatives, but she didn't ignore them. No one is an untarnished angel, except (perhaps) Manya. The environment isn't completely sanitized - racial and ethnic hatreds are certainly there, along with the awfulness of tenement life. These are real people, drawn with a loving hand.

5 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Epic story of immigrant life in New York

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. As someone who has worked years in the food industry this "up from your boot straps" story described by way of classic home cooking really struck home for me.

Lorna Raver is one of the best narrators in the business. Her talents are well used here.

This ranks as another book I envy anyone experiencing for the first time.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Good and not so good

I am glad I bought this, but am also glad I didn't pay full price for it (bought it during the $4.95 sale.)

I liked the historical detail of life in the tenements of New York for the Jewish immigrants. I learned some interesting things about that life in the first half of the 20th century (did you know that people could run a restaurant out of a second-floor walk-up apartment?)

I would have liked it better if the author had been better about conveying time frames... it was hard to keep track of the passage of time. There was a GREAT deal of detail in some places; sometimes MUCH more than was needed.

Overall, I liked the book. The character development was reasonable and, in general, brutally honest. They had both charm and flaws, as well as depth. The narrator did a good job and, after the initial "getting used to it" period, I had no trouble following the characters.

3 people found this helpful