“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
-The Minpins, Roald Dahl
On a cold Russian winter’s night in 1892, a special baby is born. Each of her many relatives wishes to bless her with the name of a female ancestor that is dearly loved, and so, to keep family harmony she becomes “The Girl with 35 Names,” Malkah Hannah Laurie Judith Phyllis Elaine Beth Bella Esther Chaya Dobrisha Elisha Alicia Marsha Pearl Sally Edie Sylvia Maria Raina Sophie Lily Francis Miriam Bette Rachel Evelyn Agnes Lucy Sadie Mary Ethel Goldah Ann. But everyone calls her Molly.
One beautiful spring day while working in her parents’ vegetable garden, ten-year-old Molly unearths an ancient pair of spectacles. Gazing through them, the world around her suddenly begins to change. The spectacles- Great-Grandmother Ethel’s beloved possession- let Molly see the world through a magical filter of light, color, and form. She is immediately able to see and feel more deeply the people around her.
At seventeen Molly is married to a young man she meets on her wedding day. Peeking through the spectacles as she walks towards him down the aisle, she feels the voices of the thirty-five women and she is reassured in the choice she has made. The future seems bright with promise, until the Red Army brings war to her small village. Molly barely escapes a soldier’s shots and she and her husband Sam must immediately emigrate leaving everything they love behind them.
Despite her fear of the departure, the uncertainties of a long boat voyage, and a grueling trek to the frigid cold of a small New England town, Molly’s spectacles help her to see a world pulsating in magic and possibility. Amid the heavy snows of the icy grey factory town of Peabody, Massachusetts, Molly’s isolation lifts when mysterious packages of colorful yarns arrive at her doorstep, beckoning her once again back into a world of magic, mystery, and tiny miracles that will change her life and the lives of the townspeople forever.
The Girl with 35 Names is a coming-of-age story with an unexpected twist of an ending. Based on the true-life story of the author’s grandmother, it is about the magic of matrilineal wisdom and the wonderful connections to the past that make us who we are. It is about the difficulties of immigration and the loneliness and isolation of a new and different place.
Molly’s story resonates with young and old alike. Believe anything is possible and tiny miracles will happen all around us if only we choose to see.