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September 22, 1996|CHARLES SOLOMON

MAZEL by Rebecca Goldstein (Penguin: $11.95, 357 pp.). The winner of the National Jewish Book Award, Goldstein's novel traces the colorful life of a redoubtable matriarch. Born in a shtetl, or Jewish settlement, in Poland, Sasha rose to international prominence as a star of the Yiddish theater during the 1930s. Having spent her life fighting community strictures to achieve independence, Sasha is appalled when her granddaughter moves to an oppressively respectable upper-middle class Jewish suburb.

Flamboyant and appealing, she eclipses both her daughter and granddaughter. Goldstein occasionally loses the thread of her narrative as she traces Sasha's journey from Shluftchev, Poland, to Lipton, N. J.

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