Letters from Rifka is a story about how Rifka has to learn to hold on to hope, to never give up, and finding the good in everything. One scene that shows all this is when her family had to leave her behind and board to go on to America without her. One of my favorite characters would be Saul ( Rifka’s older brother). Saul would be one of my favorite characters because, even though Saul can be mean to her, ( pulling her hair, stomping on her toes, holding her underwater for too long, etc.) he was there for her when she needed him most, like when she had typhus. He payed for a small apartment for her and him by doing labor for people, and payed for food for him and Rifka. Also, when she was staying in Ellis Island, Saul skipped school to come visit her before anyone else would come, and I feel like stuff like that means a lot.
Another one of my favorite characters would be Pieter. He doesn’t have a very big role, but when Rifka was sailing to America, he would do stuff just to make her laugh. I guess I kind of do like a little bit of romance because I also liked it when he kissed her. I thought that the scene where he fell off the side of the ship was when she finally let all of her emotions out: Somehow I found my way back to my cabin, and for the first time since leaving Berdichev, I cried. All the tears that had collected this year, in my enormous year, shoved their way out of my heart, and how I cried. Pieter, who said I was so brave… what would he say to see me now? I didn’t care. I cried for Pieter, I cried for myself. I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to stop. I cried until I was empty of tears. Then I was still. As still as the sea after a storm. (86) I thought that scene was sad, but I also thought that it needed to happen for her to become who she is later in the book, so while it was sad, it was also essential in the book.
Ilya ( a little Russian boy) would also be one of my favorite characters. The reason why is because, his father died, so his widowed mother remarried and her new husband didn’t like Ilya, so she sent him to America. He was sent to America to live with his uncle who works three jobs, and only wants him so that he can work him to get money. Ilya doesn’t talk to anyone but Rifka, and he’s only on Ellis Island because people think he’s simple. Since he doesn’t talk to anyone except RIfka, only she know he’s not simple, but rather smart. He clings to Rifka like velcro, and she’s kind to him even though the Russians are the reason she had to leave Russia. I think that he’s an important part of who Rifka turns out to be. Ilya showed her how to not judge people by who their relations or culture are, because not every Russian is bad, just like not every person is bad. Of course, Rifka is one of my favorite characters, because, she had to face so many hardships and she showed what some people actually had to deal with in World War II. This story helped alter what I thought of what people had to deal with in World War II, and I will never think of it as just history again. It was actually some people’s lives, and they actually had to deal with stuff similar to this, and I’ll always remember what some people had to go through.
Rifka also made friends with so many people, and when she thought she was helping them, I think they were helping her too. She even made friends with a russian boy, even though the Russians are the reason everything happened to her, she still took care of him. That, to me, took tons of strength for her, and a pure heart. Rifka is the character who had to go through so much, and instead of letting everything bring her down, she came out stronger and purer of heart than before. I really liked how the author wrote like she had personally experienced it, like when Rifka had typhus, she said: I remember Papa down on the floor beside me, putting a damp cloth on my head. Papa is so good at nursing, but each time he placed the cloth over my eyes, I felt the weight of it crushing the my head to the floor. I tried to move away from him, but whenever I moved, the pain exploded inside of me. I begged Papa to stop, but the words would not come out. I could hardly draw a breath, there was such a heaviness on my chest. (22)
I felt like I was really there in Rifka head when she had typhus. I think it made it more realistic. Also, when she was describing a banana, she said “There is a fruit called a banana, colored yellow like the June sun and curved. You peel the skin off and underneath there is a white fruit so sweet and creamy, it makes even Frusileh’s milk seem thin by comparison.”(66) She explained it like she had never seen one before, and I thought that was cool. I loved how she made it as if she was actually writing letters to Tovah.
I loved her writing style and I would read any other book she wrote. I recommend this book to people who love history, suspense, heart, adventure, love, and learning to deal with the hard times (because this book is certainly full of hard times) and how Rifka deals with it. This book also reflects on real life, like when she had typhus, how she survived that can help people. Also when her family left without her, that can help people too. This whole book helps people to learn that life isn’t a walk in the park, that things happen for a reason, and you have to learn how to embrace that, and come out stronger. This would be one of my favorite books, and if you like what I wrote, I think you would love Letters From Rifka.