What is Lilith’s Book Editor Reading?

If I Could Tell You by Jerusalem Post movie critic Hannah Brown spans a year in the lives of four mothers of autistic children who meet in a monthly support group in New York City. Covering the various treatment strategies, the medical literature they read, and the ever-alternating cycle of heartbreak and hope, this novel also serves as a general primer on autism, with the characters typifying the various manifestations of the syndrome and its likely impact on family dynamics: “Nathan simply avoided his son. Both his sons, really. He made sure he left home before they were awake and returned after they fell asleep. When he did see Max, it was as if he could barely stand to look at him. William he simply ignored altogether. He never asked about him. It was as if he didn’t want to start loving William and then find himself disappointed if the baby turned out to be autistic too.” Though at times they seem more like types than full-bodied characters, Brown’s four heroines extend a warm hand to guide readers unfamiliar with the troubled landscape of families with autism.

The Stranger Within Sarah Stein by Thane Rosenbaum is an ambitious if overly self-conscious blend of a 9/11 tribute, a Holocaust elegy, a kids’-eye-view tale of divorce, and a ghost story. Twelve-year-old Sarah Stein bikes back and forth between her artist father’s TriBeCa loft and her chocolatier mother’s Brooklyn apartment when she meets a mysterious homeless man with a shopping cart and an eye patch named Clarence Wind. Wind’s home in the bridge, analogized (a bit heavy-handedly) to the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland, becomes a haven for Sarah, who finds herself increasingly split into two identities: “When I was at school, two different Sarahs sat in my seat and answered to my name… The one who showed up depended on where I slept the night before — my mother’s daughter or daddy’s girl.” Ultimately it takes both Sarahs to redeem the wispy spirit of the aptly-named Wind and uncover her grandmother’s legacy as a hidden child during the Holocaust, building a bridge not just between her own identities but between past and present and the tragedies of two vastly different worlds which overshadow and shape her own.

Ilana Kurshan