Uncle Sol’s Women by Simeon J. Maslin
“Uncle Sol’s Women” opens in Vilnius around the time of the Russo-Japanese War with the murders that motivate Sol’s father to leave the old country with his pregnant wife. The two children born to the couple in Boston are the mother and uncle of the novel’s protagonist, Justin, who later becomes Jacob. The relationship between Justin/Jacob and his uncle and their relationships with a series of very different and fascinating women comprise the main body of the novel. Most of the action of the novel takes place in mid-’50s Boston, Maine and Chicago. We follow Jacob through his academic career at Harvard and the U. of Chicago and his struggle to choose between the examples of the two men he loves, his pious and learned grandfather and his wealthy profligate uncle. All of this comes to a head when Jacob enters into a serious relationship with the lovely Freanch-Canadian, Marie. Several other women play significant roles in both Sol’s and Jacob’s lives in this saga of a second generation American Jewish family.