The Tin Horse: A Novel

The Tin Horse: A Novel

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In the stunning tradition of Lisa See, Maeve Binchy, and Alice Hoffman, The Tin Horse is a rich multigenerational story about the intense, often fraught bond sisters share and the dreams and sorrows that lay at the heart of the immigrant experience.

It has been more than sixty years since Elaine Greenstein’s twin sister, Barbara, ran away, cutting off contact with her family forever. Elaine has made peace with that loss. But while sifting through old papers as she prepares to move to Rancho Mañana—or the “Ranch of No Tomorrow” as she refers to the retirement community—she  is stunned to find a possible hint to Barbara’s whereabouts all these years later. And it pushes her to confront the fierce love and bitter rivalry of their youth during the 1920s and ’30s, in the Los Angeles Jewish neighborhood of Boyle Heights.
Though raised together in Boyle Heights, where kosher delis and storefront signs in Yiddish lined the streets, Elaine and Barbara staked out very different personal territories. Elaine was thoughtful and studious, encouraged to dream of going to college, while Barbara was a bold rule-breaker whose hopes fastened on nearby Hollywood. In the fall of 1939, when the girls were eighteen, Barbara’s recklessness took an alarming turn. Leaving only a cryptic note, she disappeared.
 In an unforgettable voice layered with humor and insight, Elaine delves into the past. She recalls growing up with her spirited family: her luftmensch of a grandfather, a former tinsmith with tales from the Old Country; her papa, who preaches the American Dream even as it eludes him; her mercurial mother, whose secret grief colors her moods—and of course audacious Barbara and their younger sisters, Audrey and Harriet. As Elaine looks back on the momentous events of history and on the personal dramas of the Greenstein clan, she must finally face the truth of her own childhood, and that of the twin sister she once knew.
In The Tin Horse, Janice Steinberg exquisitely unfolds a rich multigenerational story about the intense, often fraught bonds between sisters, mothers, and daughters and the profound and surprising ways we are shaped by those we love. At its core, it is a book not only about the stories we tell but, more important, those we believe, especially the ones about our very selves.

Advance praise for The Tin Horse
“Steinberg, the author of five mysteries, has transcended genre to weave a rich story that will appeal to readers who appreciate multigenerational immigrant family sagas as well as those who simply enjoy psychological suspense.”—BookPage
“Steinberg . . . has crafted a novel rich in faith, betrayal, and secrecy that explores the numerous ways people are shaped and haunted by their past. . . . A sweeping family saga reminiscent of the writing of Pat Conroy, where family secrets and flashbacks combine to create an engrossing tale of growth and loss. Highly recommended for fans of family drama and historical fiction.”—Library Journal
“Steinberg’s quietly suspenseful novel is compelling by virtue of her sympathetic characters, vivid depiction of WWII-era Los Angeles, and pinpoint illuminations of poverty, anti-Semitism, family bonds and betrayals, and the crushing obstacles facing women seeking full and fulfilling lives.”—Booklist

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385359474
Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/29/2013
Edition description: Unabridged
Pages: 13
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 5.90(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

Janice Steinberg is an award-winning arts journalist who has published more than four hundred articles in The San Diego Union-Tribune, Dance Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere. She is also the author of five mystery novels, including the Shamus Award–nominated Death in a City of Mystics. She has taught fiction writing at the University of California, San Diego, and dance criticism at San Diego State University. A native of Wisconsin, she received a B.A. and M.A. from the University of California, Irvine. She holds a blue belt in the Nia dance-fitness practice and teaches weekly classes. She lives in San Diego with her husband.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Advance praise for The Tin Horse
“In the wry and witty voice of retiree Elaine Greenstein, author Janice Steinberg brings the bygone Jewish immigrant L.A. neighborhood of Boyle Heights to vibrant life. Part mystery, part sister story, part family history, The Tin Horse is a completely immersive reading experience. I closed the pages feeling as though I’d lived another life.”—Margaret Dilloway, author of How to Be an American Housewife
“Steinberg’s novel introduced me to a dramatic piece of L.A.’s history through the story of the Greenstein family, set in prewar Jewish Boyle Heights. Fascinating and meticulously rendered.”—Janelle Brown, author of All We Ever Wanted Was Everything


Letter to the readers:

I recently encountered the appealing idea of "watershed books"—books that get you through a rough time. In a study in Britain, people said they chose classics like Pride and Prejudice and One Hundred Years of Solitude. My watersheds were also classics—the noir mystery novels of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, which I read out of a desire to identify with tough, fearless protagonists.

Alas, reading noir fiction did not make me tough. Among the hard-boiled men and fast women, there was just one, very marginal character with whom I felt a kinship: an unnamed woman in Chandler's The Big Sleep. Philip Marlowe, the detective, wants information about a sleazy Hollywood bookseller. He enters a legitimate bookstore and flashes a badge at the woman working there, and she and Marlowe engage in crisp intellectual parrying, in which she gives as good as she gets.

The woman is reading a law book, which is intriguing in itself in a novel published in 1939. And she's described as having "the fine-drawn face of an intelligent Jewess," a phrase that struck me with its profound sense of otherness, as if she lived in a very different Los Angeles than Marlowe. And I felt hungry to know more about this nameless woman. What was her story? What was her Los Angeles?

Like many novelists, I love doing research, and I began by exploring the second question: what was her Los Angeles? I discovered Boyle Heights, a neighborhood east of downtown that, in the 1920s and 30s, was the Jewish part of L.A. As I was researching, I started hearing the woman's voice in my mind—not as the young woman in the bookstore but as a vibrant, opinionated octogenarian. She was talking to a young person—an archivist? So she'd had a life, perhaps related to the law book she was reading, that merited archiving. And I gave her a name: Elaine Greenstein.

Then came the difficult question: what was her story? I'm an outliner by nature. I like to know where I'm going. But Elaine's story resisted my attempts to lay it out in advance. And if that pushed me into a disorienting limbo, it was also liberating. When I started writing about Elaine's childhood, what came out first was her grandfather's story. I discovered that she lived within a fabric of stories, some of dubious veracity, and ultimately that led to the idea at the core of the book: that we construct our reality and give meaning to our lives by the stories we tell—and believe—about ourselves. In a sense, they're our personal watersheds.

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The Tin Horse: A Novel 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
WisconsinLaurie More than 1 year ago
This is a story about the malleability of memory and of how Truth is in the eyes of the beholder. It is a story of the family ties that bind us and those that can tear us apart. Set against the backdrop of the rise of Hitler, anti-Semitism, and World War II, this story explores the emotional fallout of those events on Jewish-Americans and their families. The characters are well-developed, and the dialogue helps to flesh them out. The historical details are fascinating and well-researched. The plot is suspenseful and complex -- moving back and forth in time -- yet easy to follow and understand. This is much more than a mystery or detective story. It raises thought-provoking questions about memory, truth, families, and about the broader implications of the Holocaust for modern Jewish identity.
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings At the heart is this family that is struggling to find their way. With sibling rivalry, the Depression, and cultural issues, the book was slam packed with history to share; I was able to learn about a whole subset of our United States and the places they called home. A theme that showed up quite often is the belief that even though siblings can grow up in the same home and family, their stories and recall of the shared history will be different. Elaine's recollection of some of the stories was different than her sisters, either due to the age of each sister or the different relationship they each had with mother and father. I definitely take this with me and realize that my sister was raised in the same home, but had completely different experiences in the same home than I did.
CaliforniaJack More than 1 year ago
The Tin Horse is a sweet look at real people living their lives in Los Angeles in the 20's and 30's. The protagonist, now much older, is looking back on her childhood. In current time, she's trying to find her twin sister who left the family.      Who else lived in Los Angeles in the 20's and 30's? Philip Marlowe, the detective in the Raymond Chandler noir mystery series.  It turns out that Elaine Greenstein, from this book, is a minor character in Chandler's The Big Sleep. Philip Marlowe, from that book, gets to be a minor character in this one. Fun!!      The main attraction of this book is the wonderful detail of the stories and interactions of the characters. I came to care for them, and feel like I really knew them. There's a very touching incident towards the end.
Bluegrassgirl More than 1 year ago
Our book club reads titles of Jewish interest, and this was certainly a very Jewish story. I'm happy to see that it has garnered a more broad, mainstream appeal and will be enjoyed by a more diverse group of readers. I think the author did a good job maintaining the story's authenticity while still explaining terms and customs that might not be familiar to some. It was a good, compelling story. The author used a "flash back" method to draw the past and present storylines together. I didn't mind it, but some of our group found it confusing. I thought it was an easy read. It dragged a little in a few spots, but there was never any doubt I would see the story to it's conclusion. The ending was a little "Hollywood", but then, why not? The Boyle Heights/LA/Hollywood setting was part of the appeal of this book. I definitely reommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!!! The book is very well written with an interesting plot and very in depth and likable characters. I could not put this book down until I finished it and have thought about it often since finishing it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Join Elaine Greenstein on a walk through history in Boyle Heights. Meet her family and get to know the neighbors. Good family saga.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Questions about boundries remain after reading this book. Why were some characters celebrated when they were not noble - just users of others?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Honestly I'm kind of fed up with this one, and like so many others of late. We get long detailed history lesson and not enough story or plot. Told in flashback to when the sisters were 8 years old. I had to keep walking away simply because I kept losing intrests in it. Every time the author veers off in a different direction or another history lesson. I know others loved the book because of everyone being Jewish, the community and the people but that doesn't tell me anything I didn't already know
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duchenf More than 1 year ago
This book would have benefited from some good editing. The story was interesting, but the author does not take you deep into the characters. Everything felt superficial. My book club had a more interesting discussion of their own family secrets than the book.
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