“Your Mouth is Lovely” is a touching and memorable tale set in Russia between 1887 and 1912. It is rich in the shtetl ways of life and sweeping historical events. The title is from the Song of Songs, offered as a prayer when a child speaks its first words.
The story centers on Miriam’s life while she languishes in a Siberian prison camp. She recounts memories, the high and the low points in her life in a form of a letter to her six year old daughter who was taken away at a very early age and will never have the pleasure of knowing her real mother. Her prose is lyrical and is told with the tenderness of a mother’s love. Most of the characters are women, they are superstitious and smart, judgemental and kind and the few male characters are complex and sympathetic and act as a catalyst in the plot.
The novel exposes the brutality of the regime as well as that of the radical socialists who struggled through one aborted revolution after another. It starts with flashbacks in Miriam’s upbringing and continues as time passes to the first up rise against the tsar’s regime and to the circumstances that led to her arrest.
At first I found it hard to understand the fine points of the time and culture however the author’s excellent ground work at start helped me to quickly become somewhat familiar with Jewish and Yiddish terminology and customs. It all paid off and it carried me back to the turbulent and horrific time in Russian history when hope and passion were all the people had to live for.
This is a rich human drama that was very intense and emotionally stimulating.