The Dream: A Memoir (Random House Reader's Circle)

The Dream: A Memoir (Random House Reader's Circle)

Harry Bernstein

Language: English

Pages: 296

ISBN: 0345503899

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


During the hard and bitter years of his youth in England, Harry Bernstein’s selfless mother never stops dreaming of a better life in America, no matter how unlikely. Then, one miraculous day when Harry is twelve years old, steamship tickets arrive in the mail, sent by an anonymous benefactor. Suddenly, a new life full of the promise of prosperity seems possible–and the family sets sail for America, meeting relatives in Chicago. For a time, they get a taste of the good life: electric lights, a bathtub, a telephone. But soon the harsh realities of the Great Depression envelop them. Skeletons in the family closet come to light, mafiosi darken their doorstep, family members are lost, and dreams are shattered. In the face of so much loss, Harry and his mother must make a fateful decision–one that will change their lives forever. And though he has struggled for so long, there is an incredible bounty waiting for Harry in New York: his future wife, Ruby. It is their romance that will finally bring the peace and happiness that Harry’s mother always dreamed was possible.

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of the post office, and especially from the grind. Dave and I walked rapidly and laughed and joked and talked. As the warmer weather came on, Dave had dispensed with his raccoon coat and was wearing a slicker, a bright yellow raincoat with pictures of half-naked women painted all over it, popular outerwear for college students in those days. I wished I had one too, but I was not a college student yet, and besides, I would not have spent the money. I was saving my money, hoarding every cent I

gambling. It was a lot like the old days. He ate his dinner and left, and his leaving was much the same as it had been before: in such a hurry that he had not fully put his coat on and one sleeve dangled behind as he groped for it while striding to the door. Then the door banged shut. He was gone for the night. Where to? There were no pubs. There was no Jewish gentlemen’s club where he could play cards and drink. But he had found new haunts on the West Side. We had learned that from Uncle Saul,

who was about the only one of the brothers on speaking terms with him. He had quarreled with the others, but he had soon made friends elsewhere—including in the Romanian restaurant that he frequented most often. There they served liquor in teacups and—Uncle Saul told me this privately when my mother was not with us, saying it with a little wicked grin on his face—they also served women upon request. I did not want to hear any more, and I felt sick. More than ever I wished I could get my mother to

cry out his name. The shock must have been great for her. She ran toward him, and he met her halfway to the steps and they embraced. When he broke away from her he went up to me and then to Sidney and took hold of our hands. He seemed bewildered himself. He kept looking from one to the other of us, as if he could not believe our presence. Then he said, “I don’t understand. What are you all doing here?” Well, there was a lot to tell him. I blurted out as much of it as I could. My mother added

been watching. Suddenly, without warning, the pencil and pad were snatched out of my hands. Four men had surrounded me and clutched me by the arms and the collar. The one who had grabbed the pad and pencil was scanning the lists of numbers I had written down, and another was saying, “What the hell you doing?” I was frozen with fear. The nightmare I had always been afraid of had come true. “I’m writing down license plate numbers like I was told to do,” I said. “Who told you?” “Jeff.” “

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