Sima’s Undergarments for Women, Ilana Stanger-Ross

Confession: Sometimes when I read book reviews on other people’s blogs, I am paying so much attention to one thing, that I immediately forget a lot of what the review says.  For instance, Colleen mentioned that Sima’s Undergarments for Women is not a book about friendship, as she’d expected, but rather a story about love and loss and the consequences of decisions.  I did not pay any attention to this “not about friendship” business, because I was too busy thinking, Ilana Stanger-Ross, that is a simply fantastic name.

Sima’s Undergarments for Women is about a woman called Sima who owns a basement lingerie shop.  As a young married woman, she was unable to have children, and this loss has haunted her for years; her secrecy about it has essentially destroyed her marriage to her husband, Lev, so that they have become almost strangers to each other.  She hires a young Israeli girl called Timna as her shop assistant, and Timna becomes like the daughter she never had, reminding her of all the things life has to offer.

God, this book was sad.  Sima’s pain for her past, and the avoidability of her near-estrangement from Lev, is so vivid, and it shapes her so much.  Because of the aforementioned ignoring of what Colleen said about this book, I expected it to be a book about friendship.  Instead it really is about facing your fears and sharing your pain so that it won’t consume you.  Sima is such an unhappy character, and her feelings for Timna are so loaded with the sadness she feels about her own infertility.

I foolishly read this book right before I went to bed last night.  I finished it, turned off the light, and immediately started crying.  I had to get back up, turn the light on again, and read Have His Carcase for a little while before I felt better.  (Peter and Harriet had a quarrel, but they made it up in the end.)  Sima’s Undergarments for Women is beautifully written, and so, so sad.  But the end is all about redemption!

Also, Ilana Stanger-Ross is a damn cool name.