Local author Bobbi Kornblit weaves an intriguing story of deep secrets and powerful friendships in her debut novel “Shelterfrom the Texas Heat.” The Sandy Springs resident is a featured speaker at the “Southern Writers’ Showcase” at the prestigious Book Festival of the MJCCA (Nov. 4, 2012, 10 a.m.).
Set in Dallas and Austin in the “Kennedy Camelot” era of the 1960s to the present, “Shelter” and its themes are universal. Kornblit tackles some tough subjects – racial and religious prejudice and family relationships – tempered with plenty of humor and a sprinkling of Yiddish.
Main character Rachel Frank seems to have it all: a happy marriage to a successful architect, a house on a prestigious street in North Dallas and a daughter who’s a coed at the University of Texas at Austin. She shares her adventures in life with best friend P.J. Rutherford, the daughter of a Texas tycoon.
But suddenly, Rachel’s world turns upside down, and that’s when the heat turns up in the novel. The tale of three generations of women reflects the coming-of-age of its characters – and of America – with references to the civil rights movement and other historical events.
What’s more, the “dirty little secret” of domestic abuse is also incorporated. Inspired by a mitzvah project of years ago, Kornblit today strives to spread awareness of this ugly truth.
“I wanted to give hope to women in peril,” she said of a guiding purpose to her writing.
“Shelter” portrays character Rachel’s story that develops amid Jewish rituals such as baby naming at Havdalah, Passover, Chanukah and shiva. Although the protagonist bears a resemblance to the author – she has red hair, grew up in Texas and is Jewish – Kornblit explains that this is a work of fiction.
“But the chapter about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy is autobiographical,” she added. “The horror of the tragedy happening in my hometown of Dallas was something I had to write about.”
She hopes that “Shelter” will be a part of many book club discussions, in which readers often share their poignant recollections of that day they’ll never forget. From funny-turned-disastrous moments at a glamorous birthday party at Neiman Marcus to the painful memories of a Holocaust survivor, the novel takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster ride that even includes a stop at the State Fair of Texas.
The work has been recognized as the Best Book in Women’s Fiction for the 2012 NABE Pinnacle Book Achievement Awards and as a finalist in selection of the 2012 Georgia Author of the Year for First Fiction; it is also a popular choice among members of synagogue sisterhoods, Hadassah, ORT and Brandeis committees.
“Shelter” has been compared in reviews to “The Help” and “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.” Cara Wilson-Granat, author of “Dear Cara: Letters from Otto Frank,” gave it high praise.
“The ending is surprising…sort of like eating matzah with an ice-cold glass of beer!” Wilson-Granat wrote.
Kornblit considers her upcoming appearance at the MJCCA as a milestone event.
“I attended the Book Festival for years, dreaming of writing my own novel,” she said. “Now I’m thrilled to be a presenter!”
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Editor’s note: “Shelter from the Texas Heat” is available in print and e-book; visit BobbiKornblit.com and PeachTwigPress.com. Visit atlantajcc.org for more on the MJCCA Book Festival.