~ By Meredith Schorr
I love my mom more than all the sushi in Japan (a lot), but I have to give significant credit to her mother, my Nanny Tessie, for helping to raise me. While my mother worked full time to support three children as a single parent, my Nanny Tessie was there to greet me every day when I came home from school. My Nanny Tessie made me hot tea and toast and placed a cold compress on my head when I was sick. My Nanny Tessie did my laundry. My Nanny Tessie drove me to Hebrew School in her embarrassingly old eggplant-colored car. And my Nanny Tessie woke up at 7 each and every morning to prepare a six course feast for dinner. (It’s a wonder I was never obese.) I loved Nanny Tessie but, admittedly, I was sometimes embarrassed by her. She was old; she had fake teeth; she wore a hearing aide that never seemed to work properly; she’d stare out the window until my sisters and I came home at night and she never failed to call me by one of my sister’s names.
My Nanny Tessie passed away almost ten years ago and I’d give anything to struggle to converse with her on the phone just one more time, but until I read Adena’s Halpern‘s novel, “29”, I never gave much thought to her life separate and apart from her role as my grandmother. She was my Nanny Tessie, but she was once a beautiful (drop dead gorgeous, in fact) young woman with her own desires, dreams and struggles. As I look at the stray grey hairs sprouting on my own head and religiously apply moisturizer to keep the wrinkles at bay, I have no doubt that Nanny Tessie had her own issues with aging, especially as she watched her own daughter grow up, get married and have children and then her two eldest granddaughters do the same.
Adena Halpern’s “29”, while a light read, touched me in a way I’m not accustomed to being touched by a ‘chick-lit’ novel. Ellie Jerome makes a wish on her 75th birthday to be 29 again. When she wakes up the next morning, the beautiful face of her 29-year-old self greets her in the mirror and there is not an achy bone in her toned, youthful body. With only her 25-year-old granddaughter Lucy in the know, Ellie has a chance to re-live her youth, if only for a day, and an opportunity to embrace it in a way she didn’t the first time around.
I usually shy away from books about time travel, ghosts, vampires and the like, in favor of novels featuring plain ‘ole human beings living in the same time continuum. But I loved every page of “29”. Halpern managed to take a truly unrealistic concept and paint a story I believed in from beginning to end. I felt the love, the frustration and the regret right along with all of the characters. I laughed with them and I cried with them. And when I finished the book, I wished for the opportunity to spend one day with Tesebel Zimmerman; when she was young and beautiful and before she was Nanny Tessie, “Matzo Ball soup maker extraordinaire.” Unfortunately for me, my wish did not come true, but I strongly recommend this highly entertaining, witty, touching and, yes, thought provoking read to anyone who is lucky enough to have a grandmother or, like me, has lost one. I promise that you’ll come away with a better understanding of her as a woman in her own right and not just as your grandmother.
Meredith Schorr is the author of Just Friends With Benefits, a humorous women’s fiction novel. She lives in New York City and works as a trademark paralegal at a prestigious law firm. In addition to writing humorous women’s fiction novels, her passions include running, spending time with friends and family and rooting for the New York Yankees. Meredith is a member of Romance Writers of America and Chick Lit Writers of The World.