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<DIV>A wonderful fiction debut, <I>Being Esther</I> gives voice to Esther Lustig, an extraordinary woman who has lived a conventional life, in this touching exploration of aging and its accompanied search for meaning.<BR><BR>In spare, refreshingly unsentimental prose, Miriam Karmel has given us one of literature’s finest portraits of the last months of a woman’s life. At once sad and amusing, unpretentious and ambitious, Karmel’s fiction debut brings understanding and tremendous empathy to the character of Esther Lustig, a woman readers will recognize and embrace.<BR><BR>Born to parents who fled the shtetl, Esther Lustig has led a seemingly conventional lifemarriage, two children, a life in suburban Chicago. Now, at the age of eighty-five, her husband is deceased, her children have families of their own, and most of her friends are gone. Even in this diminished condition, life has its moments of richness, as well as its memorable characters. Being Esther is an exploration of aging, a search for meaning, and about the need, as Esther puts it, for better roadmaps for growing old.<BR></DIV>