These days, mail-order brides mostly reside in your spam folder, but in the 1800s, it was a booming industry in the American frontier, and an easy way for women to make it to the New World. And some Jews joined the bandwagon.
In her gorgeous debut novel The Little Bride, Anna Solomon shares the story of Minna Losk, a 16-year-old orphan in Odessa who trades her post as a maidservant for enrollment in Rosenfeld’s Bridal Service, a mail-order bride service that sends nice Jewish girls to America.
After a nightmarish trans-Atlantic boat ride, Minna finally makes it to America. With only a grainy picture of her future husband standing on the rooftop of what must be a luxurious city home, Minna barely has time to conjure up her fantasy life before being whisked away by train, out of New York City and into territory that is wholly unfamiliar.
What she soon learns—that her husband is a rigid Orthodox Jew whereas she has not gone to a synagogue in years; that he lives on a failing farm with two teenage sons, one of them even older than her; that “Sodokota” does not offer the modern amenities of her dreams—forces Minna to forego all expectations and fantasies and face the reality of her new American life with her newly acquired American family.