Sholem Aleichem romanticized shtetl life. Isaac Bashevis Singer eroticized it. ln the novel Bociany and its sequel, Of Lodz and Love, Chava Rosenfarb brings a vanished world to vibrant, compelling life. Rosenfarb follows the destinies of characters from the Polish town of Bociany as they grow up, grow old, and leave the shtetl for the city.
In Bociany, Rosenfarb offers completely absorbing portrayals of Jews and Christians 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.
Rosenfarb establishes an indelible sense of place, evoking its charm and the shtetl residents' ease with the natural world. Her vivid characters and portrait of the preurban, pre-Holocaust world ring true. Yet even in isolated Bociany, new ideas--socialism, Zionism, Polish nationalism, secularism--begin to challenge the shtetl's traditional agrarian and mercantile economy.