Tuesday, November 19, 2013

G168 Book Review of Ida's Story by Steven A. Segal

Name of Book: Ida's Story

Author: Steven A Segal

ISBN: 978-1-62295-940-2

Publisher: Tate Publishing and Enterprises

Type of book: Kansas, history, saga, multi-generational, 1870s-1948, family, mother-son relationships, New York, secularism, wealth, upper class, mental institution, orphanage, separation, newspaper, airplane company, business, favoritism, corruption

Year it was published: 2012


As he pulled up and shut down the engine, he took a deep breath to calm himself, and in that instant, the flash of anger he had felt the night he was torn from his mother returned. He shook it from his mind, slid out of the seat, and went up the stairs to the front door. Ida opened the door and threw her arms around his neck with exactly the same loving abandonment he had seen her often leap into his father's arms so many years ago. She hung onto her boy, hung on tight with her face buried in his shoulder and sobbed. He wrapped his arms around her tiny waist, fighting hard for control. He couldn't help himself. Her tears and unrestrained love swept away his resistance. He stood up straight, lifting her off her feet. They stood there, mother and grown son, in the open doorway, holding each other in an endless embrace as their tears rained down. Ida's life reveals the story of an incredibly resilient human being born in a Boston ghetto in the late 1870s who fights to survive, educate herself, and protect her family in the midst of the rampant political and social corruption of the early 1900s, the wide-open crime of mob violence of the Prohibition era, the economic destruction of the Great Depression, and the devastating tragedy brought on by the rise of Nazi Germany as it engulfs the world in the chaotic senselessness of World War II.


The characters are more of told than show variety: considering that the book is fiction, perhaps some incidents could have been invented to show why the are the way they are, and in some cases some of the characters seemed to be more superhuman rather than human, especially in later half of the book. The only character that did retain humanity happened to be Robert, the youngest Segal brother of the family; other characters, whatever they tried they succeeded at in what seemed like first time, and almost all were best described as geniuses in their chosen fields.


Its possible to grow stronger from tragedy.


The book is written in third person narrative from what seems to be everyone's point of view. There are a lot of characters and at times I had trouble keeping track of the minor ones (I still don't recall who's Pat) the point of views switch without a warning which might be jarring and if its a true story, I would have liked to know which of the brothers happens to be the author's father. When I was reading it, I sensed something nostalgic within the book that's hard to describe, and in some cases the book is a bit similar to John Jakes' Homeland, although not as detailed and about 600+ pages shorter, although I guess the career choices and how everything seemed a little too coincidental reminded me of Homeland by John Jakes. Something that did bug me a lot is what seemed to be after a lot of major scenes the author always announced about how these scenes changed the lives of his characters constantly. Once or twice okay, but three or four or even more times no thanks. The fact that the author mentions these scenes without cutting them already means that their lives will change somehow.

Author Information:
(from goodreads.com)

born The United States
genreHistory, Historical Fiction, Biography
member sinceFebruary 2013

Steve was born in late 1941, emerging into a world at war. Within days of his birth the United States had declared war on Japan, Germany and Italy. Working a full time job in war production his father was struggling to start a cutting tool business on the side and the two demanding tasks often kept him separated from his new son and young wife 70 and 80 hours a week.

Steve’s brother, John, came on the scene four and a half years later initiating a lifelong close and trusting relationship between the two boys. Their father’s devotion to his cutting tool business paid off and after graduation from Indiana University School of Business Steve joined the family company. His brother John went to work for the company several years later and the brothers managed the business working side by side for 40 years.

As the boys were growing up both Mother and Father reminisced with marvelous stories of their young lives coming of age in the America of the nineteen-teens, twenties, thirties and forties.

Steve says, "The first 50 years of the last century were tumultuous times – breathtaking technological advancement, two world wars, the Great Depression, crime-filled Prohibition, wide-open big city boss politics and the emergence of the United States as a third rate international country to the most powerful nation in the world all got packed into that half century. The early part of the last century still fascinates me”, Steve comments, almost with a wistful attitude that he would go back to those times if allowed.

Discussing his up brining he says, “My Dad was big on ‘tough-love’. Probably came from buying into the old ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ attitudes he grew up with. I could have use a bit less rod and a bit more spoil,” Steve laughs, “But in spite of his tough attitude I always felt he came from a caring spot – that he always loved me and wanted the best for me."

During his professional career Steve served as the Sales Manager, Vice-President of Marketing, President and Chairman of the family company. “My brother, John, and I worked hard at building our company, but I will say, that without bright, determined, dedicated people we could never have built our firm into the company it eventually became. I don’t miss the long hours, working weekends, late evenings at the office or the stress of dealing with numerous economic ups and downs, but I do miss many of those people.”

Steve and his wife Lavonne married in the fall of 1996, a second marriage for both of them. They live in Phoenix, Arizona. Lavonne has two married children, as does Steve. They have eleven grandchildren.

His hobbies include cabinet making, building museum quality model cars, off-roading in search of Arizona ghost towns, photography, drawing, cooking, writing and the most challenging and wondrous of all – grandfathering.

Ida’s Story is Steve’s first novel. He is presently working on his next manuscript – a novel about a small, stealthy and successful French Resistance group operating in the French Alps during the German occupation of France in WWII.


This is kind of a difficult book to grade as well as talk about. There are positive things that I liked about Ida's Story such as a fascinating story that easily sucked me in, as well as what sounds like an amazing woman and her equally strong and amazing sons. The story did have a huge potential to become a top favorite, but due to some reasons I can't rate it that highly: one of the main reasons is that the author really glosses over Ida's childhood and its not until 1913 or 1914 that the author goes into more details about Ida. Ida was born in late 1870s, I believe so that would be the last thirty some years of her life. Also a lot of is told rather than shown; that is when it comes to Ida's early life I would have liked a lot more personal anecdotes about her and the family rather than simply glossing over until she met Henry. I am also curious about Ida's brothers and why they didn't seem to share contact with her. Being a history major as well as Jewish (Ida's religion) I sort of understand the decisions she made when it came to her life, but it doesn't mean I approve of them. I would have liked it if the characters sought out Judaism or something of the kind instead of shunning it completely and becoming christianized, but they don't do that. My family and I grew up in Russia where religion was also forbidden, and although we let many things leave as well as escape, you won't catch us celebrating christmas or going to a catholic mass which is what Ida and her family does.

Quick notes: I would like to thank the author for the opportunity to read and review the book.

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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