Today's Reading

CHAPTER ONE 
SARA 
1910
A Matchmaker for This Strange, New World

Sara was ten years old when she made her first match.

She had traveled for a week from Kalarash to Libava with her parents, her sister, Hindel, and three unruly brothers to board the giant steamship headed for New York. As the coast faded to a blurry mist, eighteen-year-old Hindel wailed like a colicky infant. She wept for the village she would never see again and for the handsome young man she had left behind. Their mother, who had no patience for tears, pointed to the water that surrounded them on all sides. "The ocean is full enough," she said. "If you don't stop crying, you'll drown the fish." 

They had come up to the deck from their third-class cabin—a cramped cell reeking of vomit and salt. Sara thought the sea air might raise Hindel's spirits, but the cyan sky offered no reprieve. After soaking through their mother's handkerchiefs, Hindel began using the folds of her skirt. Her eyelids were pink, swollen, and raw, but even in grief, her beauty was apparent. Hindel's skin was as soft as the foam on the waves. The braids down her back were like honeyed silk.

Their mother whispered in Sara's ear. "Find your father and bring me his handkerchief. Quickly, before your sister ruins her clothes."

Sara was more than happy to oblige, to be free, for a moment, from the wailing. Her father's face was nowhere to be seen, but she did not shrink from the crowd. She pushed her way past a group of young men—at least half a dozen bent over a wooden crate, throwing down cards, tossing coins, and laughing. The tallest one winked as Sara went by, but it was the shorter man behind him who caught her attention.

The man stood apart from the rest of the group, staring in silence at the motion of the sea. His reddish beard was neatly trimmed; his woolen suit was worn but clean. Sara watched as he plucked a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles from his face, pulled a handkerchief from his pocket, and set to work polishing the round lenses.

He was gentle with his task, careful and slow, holding the spectacles as if he thought he might hurt them, as if they were the wings of an injured bird instead of two discs made of clear, hard glass.

In an instant, Sara was beside him, pointing to the handkerchief, asking for help. "Please," she said sweetly, "may I borrow it for my sister? She is there, by the railing—the girl with the braids."

The man placed the spectacles back on his nose and squinted. "By the railing, you say? I can't see that far. My eyes are not as sharp as they should be. Still, I'm more than happy to help." Something inside Sara's chest stirred. She knew that when most men saw her sister, they noticed only her flawless skin and the curves beneath her dress. Back in their tiny village, every man over the age of fifteen had leapt to Hindel's aid at every opportunity. They carried her water buckets from the river; they picked up the stray apples that fell from her cart. Sara had seen their wolfish smiles, their hungry stares, their too-close hands. But this short and weak-eyed stranger acted out of courtesy alone.

As she led the man toward the railing, the sun emerged from a passing cloud overhead. Sara blinked once and then again. Was it her imagination, or had a single strand of golden light formed a line from her older sister to the myopic man beside her? "My name is Aaron," the stranger said, as he struggled to keep up.

Three months later in New York, Hindel married Aaron in a one-room synagogue on Rivington Street. At the small reception, held on the roof of the building, electric lights were strung on tall wooden poles, and platters of cake were set out for the guests. Sara's mother told anyone who would listen that her youngest daughter had been the one to introduce the young lovers. "Can you believe it?" she said to the guests. "I sent her for a handkerchief, and she came back with a groom." A few of the guests shook their heads in disbelief, but most of them smiled or offered their congratulations. Such a good girl you have, they said. Such a blessing to her family.

When all the cake had been eaten and all the schnapps had been drunk, the rabbi—a stout man in a wide fur hat—took Sara's hand gently and murmured a blessing. "Tell me," Rabbi Sheinkopf said, "about the ship. Dozens of men carry handkerchiefs. Why pick Aaron? Why ask him to help you?"

A long moment passed before Sara answered. She chose her words like fruits at the market, weighing each one before she spoke. "He was different from the other men. The others gambled on games of cards, but he stood apart. He was polishing his spectacles."
...

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Today's Reading

CHAPTER ONE 
SARA 
1910
A Matchmaker for This Strange, New World

Sara was ten years old when she made her first match.

She had traveled for a week from Kalarash to Libava with her parents, her sister, Hindel, and three unruly brothers to board the giant steamship headed for New York. As the coast faded to a blurry mist, eighteen-year-old Hindel wailed like a colicky infant. She wept for the village she would never see again and for the handsome young man she had left behind. Their mother, who had no patience for tears, pointed to the water that surrounded them on all sides. "The ocean is full enough," she said. "If you don't stop crying, you'll drown the fish." 

They had come up to the deck from their third-class cabin—a cramped cell reeking of vomit and salt. Sara thought the sea air might raise Hindel's spirits, but the cyan sky offered no reprieve. After soaking through their mother's handkerchiefs, Hindel began using the folds of her skirt. Her eyelids were pink, swollen, and raw, but even in grief, her beauty was apparent. Hindel's skin was as soft as the foam on the waves. The braids down her back were like honeyed silk.

Their mother whispered in Sara's ear. "Find your father and bring me his handkerchief. Quickly, before your sister ruins her clothes."

Sara was more than happy to oblige, to be free, for a moment, from the wailing. Her father's face was nowhere to be seen, but she did not shrink from the crowd. She pushed her way past a group of young men—at least half a dozen bent over a wooden crate, throwing down cards, tossing coins, and laughing. The tallest one winked as Sara went by, but it was the shorter man behind him who caught her attention.

The man stood apart from the rest of the group, staring in silence at the motion of the sea. His reddish beard was neatly trimmed; his woolen suit was worn but clean. Sara watched as he plucked a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles from his face, pulled a handkerchief from his pocket, and set to work polishing the round lenses.

He was gentle with his task, careful and slow, holding the spectacles as if he thought he might hurt them, as if they were the wings of an injured bird instead of two discs made of clear, hard glass.

In an instant, Sara was beside him, pointing to the handkerchief, asking for help. "Please," she said sweetly, "may I borrow it for my sister? She is there, by the railing—the girl with the braids."

The man placed the spectacles back on his nose and squinted. "By the railing, you say? I can't see that far. My eyes are not as sharp as they should be. Still, I'm more than happy to help." Something inside Sara's chest stirred. She knew that when most men saw her sister, they noticed only her flawless skin and the curves beneath her dress. Back in their tiny village, every man over the age of fifteen had leapt to Hindel's aid at every opportunity. They carried her water buckets from the river; they picked up the stray apples that fell from her cart. Sara had seen their wolfish smiles, their hungry stares, their too-close hands. But this short and weak-eyed stranger acted out of courtesy alone.

As she led the man toward the railing, the sun emerged from a passing cloud overhead. Sara blinked once and then again. Was it her imagination, or had a single strand of golden light formed a line from her older sister to the myopic man beside her? "My name is Aaron," the stranger said, as he struggled to keep up.

Three months later in New York, Hindel married Aaron in a one-room synagogue on Rivington Street. At the small reception, held on the roof of the building, electric lights were strung on tall wooden poles, and platters of cake were set out for the guests. Sara's mother told anyone who would listen that her youngest daughter had been the one to introduce the young lovers. "Can you believe it?" she said to the guests. "I sent her for a handkerchief, and she came back with a groom." A few of the guests shook their heads in disbelief, but most of them smiled or offered their congratulations. Such a good girl you have, they said. Such a blessing to her family.

When all the cake had been eaten and all the schnapps had been drunk, the rabbi—a stout man in a wide fur hat—took Sara's hand gently and murmured a blessing. "Tell me," Rabbi Sheinkopf said, "about the ship. Dozens of men carry handkerchiefs. Why pick Aaron? Why ask him to help you?"

A long moment passed before Sara answered. She chose her words like fruits at the market, weighing each one before she spoke. "He was different from the other men. The others gambled on games of cards, but he stood apart. He was polishing his spectacles."
...

Join the Library's Online Book Clubs and start receiving chapters from popular books in your daily email. Every day, Monday through Friday, we'll send you a portion of a book that takes only five minutes to read. Each Monday we begin a new book and by Friday you will have the chance to read 2 or 3 chapters, enough to know if it's a book you want to finish. You can read a wide variety of books including fiction, nonfiction, romance, business, teen and mystery books. Just give us your email address and five minutes a day, and we'll give you an exciting world of reading.

What our readers think...