This stunningly intimate collection of stories is an exquisite portrait of a Jewish community — the secular and religious families who inhabit it and the tensions that exist there — that illuminates the unexpected ways we remain connected during times of change.
When Uncle Isaac moves back from L.A. to help his sister, Elaine Levine, care for her suddenly motherless grandchildren, he finds himself embroiled in even more drama than he would like in their suburban neighbourhood. Meanwhile, a nanny miles from her own family in the Philippines, cares for a young boy who doesn’t fit in at school. A woman in mid-life contends with the task of cleaning out the house in which she grew up, while her teenage son struggles with why his dad moved out. And down the street, a mother and her two daughters prepare for a wedding and transitions they didn’t see coming.
Spanning fifteen years in the lives of a multi-generational family and their neighbours, this remarkable collection is an intimate portrait of a suburban Jewish community by a writer with a keen eye for detail, a gentle sense of humour, and an immense literary talent.
SIDURA LUDWIG is the author of the widely successful novel Holding My Breath. Her short fiction has been published in numerous literary journals and anthologies. She works as a communications specialist and creative writing teacher, and her creative nonfiction has appeared in several newspapers and on CBC Radio. She is currently working on her M.F.A. in Writing for Children and Young Adults through the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, she now lives in Thornhill, Ontario, with her husband and three children.
PRAISE FOR SIDURA LUDWIG AND YOU ARE NOT WHAT WE EXPECTED:
“Every single character is deeply rendered, every experience detailed beautifully, every story crafted with lucidity and poise. With tenderness, humour, sharp intelligence, and a vibrant grasp of family and community, Ludwig peels back the tensions of the Jewish experience. The Levine family and Ludwig’s incandescent writing will stay with readers for a very long time.” — Jennifer Manuel, author of The Heaviness of Things That Float
“A gorgeous, highly visceral, deeply felt collection of linked stories about how families work — and don’t work — together. The Levine family is unforgettable.” — Jami Attenberg, author of All This Could Be Yours
“I fell more and more in love with the people in these linked stories as I read. Each story reveals a striking new facet of experience, a shift in perspective, an unexpected complication. Layers of assumption lift away as you turn the pages. Written with warmth, clarity, and compassion, You Are Not What We Expected is surprising, engrossing, and heartbreaking.” — Sarah Selecky, author of Radiant Shimmering Light
PRAISE FOR SIDURA LUDWIG AND HOLDING MY BREATH:
Finalist, Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award
“Holding My Breath is calm and absorbing, its themes handled with delicacy. The writing is precise and each lyrical moment is earned.” — Telegraph (U.K.)
“Ludwig’s first novel is a warm, deftly rendered Jewish family saga . . . The characters are distinctive and Ludwig has a talent for storytelling.” — Guardian
“Ludwig’s setting, the North End of Winnipeg, is richly drawn without intruding on the calm, quiet story . . . Ludwig has the gifts to launch beyond the predictable.” — Globe and Mail
“[A] nicely observed debut . . . Charming.” — Publishers Weekly
“Ludwig creates a group of characters who are complex, strong and distinct . . . Her sensitive and detailed exploration of character, combined with her skill at evoking the specificities of time and place, create something to which everyone can relate.” — Winnipeg Free Press
“Impressive . . . Ludwig tells an absorbing story, and we look forward to hearing more from this young writer.” — Chicago Jewish Star
“There’s much to admire in Sidura Ludwig’s debut novel, Holding My Breath, a coming-of-age story set in the mid-twentieth century: its powerful evocation of setting, compelling cast of complex female characters, and affirming celebration of Jewish family life.” — National Post
“Ludwig captures the complexities of love, as it relates to personal happiness but also responsibility to family, friends, and community. She has a talent for dialogue and manages to communicate the feeling garnered by those uncomfortable moments we’ve all experienced when something awkward is said and people flounder to find a response.” — Jewish Independent
“A polished work from a new voice in Canadian literature.” — Halifax Chronicle Herald
“The women shine as complex characters, furious and forgiving, resistant and resigned. Ludwig is particularly good at evoking atmosphere, the heaviness of summer in Winnipeg, the smell of holiday cooking, the oppressive measurements of meddlesome community.” — Books in Canada
“Ludwig’s honest, clear writing and patient, compassionate observations render the characters and their insular world entirely believable.” — Literary Review of Canada
“Holding My Breath is a skillful exploration of one Jewish family in the North End of Winnipeg during the aftermath of the Second World War . . . Ludwig deftly weaves historical markers and references to Winnipeg into the story, allowing the reader to focus on the characters, their ambitions, triumphs, and tragedies. Holding My Breath is a polished and satisfying novel.” — Jury Citation for the Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award
“Quietly compelling . . . Ludwig explores the universal conflict between individual needs and family ties with sympathy and compassion.” — Clare Morrall, author of Astonishing Splashes of Colour
“Beth, our delightful narrator, stakes her own claim early on, and the reader is instantly smitten. Holding My Breath is a sweet, sad, and compulsively readable tale that manages, along with its lovely, unbreakable characters, to soar.” — Jennifer Gilmore, author of Golden Country
“This is a portrait of an era, a city, a family, a story lovingly told by a girl born into Winnipeg’s postwar Jewish community . . . Here are three sisters . . . seen through the eyes of a daughter torn between familial devotion and restless, brilliant ambition. This novel depicts the tremendous capacity for love and the sometimes tragic tendency to hold our loved ones too tight.” — Margaret Sweatman, playwright and author of When Alice Lay Down With Peter