Author: Maria Espinosa
“Suburban Souls” presents itself well against a background of affluence in 1970’s San Francisco. The story is multi-generational, following a storyline of two German Jewish people that barely escaped the Holocaust, immigrated to the United States, grew up here, met and married. It is very clear in this story that family history, and family expectations play a large part in the choices that are made. Memories are constant shadows in their lives.
We see the father (Saul) focused on his work as a scientist, but not on his wife. He is close to his children, but wonders if he should have married his wife, or if he would have been better off with someone else. He becomes involved with New Age teacher Shivaya. The mother (Gerda) has the benefit of a nice home thanks to Saul, but she is stuck in that home with the children all day, every day. She yells at her husband, who refuses to connect with her. She both loves and resents her children. For her, alcohol is a solace.
Throughout the story we see the issue of mental breakdown being addressed, along with being institutionalized. (Gerda moves in and out of psychiatric care.) Several characters have a very difficult time relating to life, including Hannah, Gerda and Saul’s older daughter.
This is a very accurate picture of the 70’s, and the environment these characters would have lived in. The holocaust and being German Jews are ever present in the background. It is sad to see the mother in this story spiraling downward in her life, choosing friends and making choices that do not always support who she is.
The storyline is held together with empathy and understanding. Each character has flaws, but they also have their good points. They are real people, with real problems.
© December 2020 Bonnie Cehovet
Reproduction prohibited without written consent from the authors.