Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Review: "Sima's Undergarments For Women" by Ilana Stanger-Ross

Sima Goldner runs a warm and welcoming lingerie shop out of her basement in Brooklyn. After years of fitting women for bras and lingerie, she has the uncanny ability to figure out what size a woman needs without the use of a measuring tape. She's built up quite a business for herself, and when her seamstress quits, Sima needs to replace her.

Timna, a young Israeli woman, comes into the shop in search of a bra and finds herself employed instead. Sima and Timna develop a strange kind of friendship. Timna looks up in a way to Sima, but has lots to keep her busy after working hours. Sima, who is infertile and is stuck in a bitter marriage, looks upon Timna as something more than a friend. She seems to view her as the daughter that she never has. When Timna gets ready to move on to bigger and better things, Sima must take a hard look at her own life and decide if her marriage is worth saving.

I have mixed feelings about Sima's Undergarments for Women. Stanger-Ross creates a warm and welcoming environment when she describes Sima's lingerie shop. The women who come in to shop are often friends of Sima and the conversations are lively and interesting. Sima, and later Timna, know instinctively how to fit the women in garments that will make them feel wonderful about themselves, and I wished that it was a real place where I could actually go shopping. There is a wonderful sense of community present, and I enjoyed the parts of the book which feature the shop immensely.

I also appreciated the relationship between Sima and her husband, Lev. For most of the book their relationship is bitter and tense, however I felt that, underneath it all, the two cared deeply for one another. It's revealed early on that Sima is keeping a secret from Lev and I held out hope that she would decide to reveal it and the two could begin to repair their relationship. I found the two of them quite endearing.

What I found puzzling was Sima's relationship with Timna. I found that Sima's fascination with Timna bordered on being obsessive at times. Sima would follow Timna and try to immerse herself in Timna's life. I understood that Sima was looking upon Timna as the daughter that she never had, but I found the relationship strange and I had a hard time relating to it.

Sima's Undergarments for Women was, above all, a heartwarming story about women, their friendships, marriage, and the orthodox Jewish community. Stanger-Ross writes descriptively about places and emotions and that is what makes this book so enjoyable.

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Recommended to: Fans of women's fiction
Challenges: 2010 100+ Reading Challenge, New Author Challenge 2010, The Canadian Book Challenge 4

Thank-you to Penguin Canada for this review copy!


  1. This book really worked for me. I enjoyed it a lot; great review.

  2. I read this back in June. It took me a couple chapters to get into but I enjoyed it once I did.


  3. I'm really intrigued by this one -- and your review has definitely piqued my interest! Adding it to my wishlist.

  4. Ok, the whole Sima-Timna thing is a bit creepy. But on the whole, this book sounds like an interesting read!