Inventing Memory: A Novel of Mothers and Daughters

Inventing Memory: A Novel of Mothers and Daughters by Erica Jong HarperCollins, $25

Like two mirrors facing each other. Inventing Memory repeats itself, frame within frame, story within story. The material Jong’s narrator turns up as she researches the generations of Jewish women in her family becomes the very substance of Jong’s novel. “I’ve become passionate about the history of the Jews . . . particularly the stories of the women in these families,” says Sara. “I would like nothing better than to rescue them from oblivion.”

With the characteristic blend of sex and rebellion that brought the world Fear of Flying, Jong aims to create archetypal Jewish women, each representing the danger and excitement of their era. Sarah is the greenhorn in the goldeneh medineh; Salome, the wild literary flapper in Paris; Sally, the folk singer destroyed by her fame; and Sara, at the millennium, piecing together the stories of those who came before her.

While Jong’s strokes are at times so broad as to turn to caricature, readers will treasure the value she places on Jewish women’s memories as history.

Sarah Wallis, a former Lilith intern, is living in San Francisco, working at Borders books, and creating a history of the women in her family