Review of Born of Love
Born of Love by Rita Baker opens with a gripping scene of a young woman who has just hurled herself into the sea off Ellis Island. As the icy water numbs her, she recalls the shock of learning that her parents withheld her true heritage from her until she was sixteen, this shock followed shortly by the death of her parents in a freak accident just as the family was set to emigrate from Poland to America. Before she can sink into oblivion, she is plucked from the sea by two young men who represent both sides of her heritage: Sean O’Malley, who is Catholic, and Maurice Bloom, who is Jewish. So begins Tova’s journey to find true love. The year is 1908.
From the title of the book, as well as the opening chapters, I expected Born of Love to be a conventional love story, along the lines of which man will Tova choose? However, as I read, I came to learn that it is much more than that. Born of Love is a novel of discovery on many different levels, a rite of passage story. The novel begins with Tova’s passage from childhood into adolescence when she learns the secret her parents had been keeping from her. From that point on, with each new discovery–whether affirming, confounding, exhilarating, or devastating–and she experiences all of these–she moves one step closer toward a fully-realized womanhood.
While there were plenty of villains and obstacles to keep the story interesting, I particularly enjoyed the parts about the New York City garment district: the working conditions young women like Tova had to contend with, the changes to the industry brought about by the Great War, and some unexpectedly shady dealings when Tova went into business with Sean manufacturing women’s nightgowns of high-quality design at an affordable price.
As I began to reflect on why Tova’s manufacturing business would have resonated with me to the extent that it did, I realized that it reminded me of The Color Purple by Alice Walker. In both instances, the creation of women’s clothing played a pivotal role in an abused and exploited woman’s ability to achieve her own power, strength, and independence by providing others with clothing designed to make them feel good about their identity as women.
And in the end, did Tova overcome her past to find true love? No spoilers here–you will have to read Born of Love for yourself!
From the Author
My life entered another phase when I met and married Harry, a British lawyer and with two young boys to take up my time, my desire to write had to take a back seat, a niggle that never left until they flew-the-coop and at last, and with my husband’s encouragement, I began what I was born to do, write, here in Canada, after following our sons to this blessed continent. When Harry and I became engaged, I was 19, he was 37. We were deeply in-love and remained so for 56 years. I was one of the lucky ones.