Mazel means luck in Yiddish, and luck is the guiding force in this magical and mesmerizing novel that spans three generations. Sasha Saunders is the daughter of a Polish rabbi who abandons the shtetl and wins renown as a Yiddish actress in Warsaw and New York. Her daughter Chloe becomes a professor of classics at Columbia. Chloe’s daughter Phoebe grows up to become a mathematician who is drawn to traditional Judaism and the sort of domestic life her mother and grandmother rejected.
Three generations of fascinating women -- grandmother, mother and daughter -- are seen through their interaction and their particular milieu. In the course of the narrative, goldstein touches on questions of chance and coincidence as they affect lives; Jewish identity and ritual as they impact on the three women. Pheobe Saunders, the Princeton professor who is an expert on the mathematics of soap bubbles, triggers a return to the past for her grandmother, whose roots are in a Polish shtetl.