Rosenfarb follows the destinies of characters from several walks of life in the shtetl. Her primary characters are the scribe's widow Hindele, her son Yacov, the chalk vendor Yossele Abedale, and his daughter Binele. Jewish relations with neighboring Catholics are generally civil, if complicated. Despite living next door to a convent, Hindele finds the nuns' behavior implacably alien.
Her characters and portrait of the preurban, pre-Holocaust world ring true. Yet even in isolated Bociany, new ideas - socialism, Zionism, Polish nationalism, secularism - began to challenge the shtetl's traditional agrarian and mercantile economy.
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Abrashka Almighty Ariele arms asked began besmedresh Binele Binele's Blue Mountain Bociany boys Brontchele brother called Chwosty daughter door dress eyes face father feel felt Fire Chief Gemara gentile girl goyim grabbed grew hands Hasidic head heard heart Heaven heder Hershele Hindele Hindele's inside Itchele Jewish Jews knew kopecks laugh lived looked Mameshie Manka marketplace melamed Messiah mind mother Nechele neighbors never night Passover peasants Perele pogrom Potcheyov priest Purim Rabbi Raisele Reb Faivele Reb Laibele Reb Menashele Reb Senderl Reb Shapsele Reb Yossele rov's Sabbath seemed Shalom Shmulikl the Doctor shook shtetl sisters slaughterer's smile Sore-Leyele soul Spokojny stared stood storks synagogue talk tears tell things thought took Torah tsadik turned Vaslav voice walked whispered Wide Poplar Road wife window woman women words Yacov Yadwiga yeshiva Yiddish Yossele Abedale Yossele's Zirele