It’s not every day that an adult in her mid-80s can read a book meant for fifth-graders (ages 10-11) and be reduced to tears. But that’s how Lucky Broken Girl affected me, and I didn’t even realize this was a book for young readers until I was more than halfway through.
Lucky Broken Girl, by Ruth Behar, tells the story of Ruthie Mizrahi, a Jewish Cuban refugee. After proving to her teacher that she’s ready for the “smart” fifth-grade class, Ruthie is in a serious automobile accident that forces her to remain in bed, sheathed in a total body cast, for nearly a year.
That’s the “broken” part. The “lucky” parts are the creative and delightful ways in which Ruthie’s classmates, new fifth-grade teacher, physical therapist and artist neighbor help Ruthie to learn, create and eventually, heal.
The book’s Jewish content consists of the Jewish family names, one Shabbat dinner with challah, a few Yiddish phrases sprinkled here and there, a mentioned taboo on eating pork and the grandma’s stories of being saved from Hitler by finding a refuge in Cuba.
But Jewish or not, this is a thrilling book about friendship, community and survival.
Sue Driesen is a copy editor at Moment.