Bestseller Alan Brennert's spellbinding story about a family of dreamers and their lives within the legendary Palisades Amusement Park
Growing up in the 1930s, there is no more magical place than Palisades Amusement Park in New Jersey - especially for seven-year-old Antoinette, who horrifies her mother by insisting on the unladylike nickname Toni, and her brother, Jack. Toni helps her parents, Eddie and Adele Stopka, at the stand where they sell homemade French fries amid the roar of the Cyclone roller coaster. There is also the lure of the world's biggest salt-water pool, complete with divers whose astonishing stunts inspire Toni, despite her mother's insistence that girls can't be high divers.
But a family of dreamers doesn't always share the same dreams, and then the world intrudes: There's the Great Depression, and Pearl Harbor, which hits home in ways that will split the family apart; and perils like fire and race riots in the park. Both Eddie and Jack face the dangers of war, while Adele has ambitions of her own - and Toni is determined to take on a very different kind of danger in impossible feats as a high diver. Yet they are all drawn back to each other - and to Palisades Park - until the park closes forever in 1971.
Evocative and moving, with the trademark brilliance at transforming historical events into irresistible fiction that made Alan Brennert's Moloka'i and Honolulu into reading group favorites, Palisades Park takes us back to a time when life seemed simplerexcept, of course, it wasn't.
"A pleasure to read, especially for those who collect giant pineapples, roller coasters and other roadside attractions." - Kirkus
"Brennert convincingly incorporates into the narrative authentic figures and anecdotes about the park, and creates a real emotional pull in his evocative descriptions of the eccentric, hardworking people who made up the Palisades family in good times and in bad." - Publishers Weekly
"Brennert effectively captures twentieth-century American history from the unique perspective of the park and the lives of those who work there. But if at times Brennert's narrative seems to only lightly skim the surface of history, then Stopka's old-time integrity and lovable gullibility are rewarding depictions of the more cheerful, hopeful American of old." - Booklist
"This tightly researched book (the author grew up at the foot of the Palisades) makes for fascinating reading, down to the tiniest authentic detail: how fries are made on 100 degree summer days, how Toni learns to dive, how her brother Jack fares at war. For those who want to escape the late winter/early spring doldrums, this nostalgic coming-of-age tale of a little girl with big dreams is the perfect read." - Library Journal
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Rated of 5
A love letter to Palisades Park
Alan Brennert has taken a famous old place, which he admits is a cherished part of his childhood, and populated it with wonderful characters, both real and imagined, to highlight the history and the lifestyle of this New Jersey icon of the 1920s to 1971, and the people who were part of it. He has used a sort of “cut-and-paste” approach to develop his main characters, blending true stories and people so that the readers can watch the history through their eyes, as we also watch their relationships bend, break, and heal. It all makes very convincing reading and a way to learn about things that are rare today. (I now know more about high diving and carnival concessionaires than I thought possible.) There are many suspenseful scenes that kept me turning pages and almost holding my breath.
Aside from the apparently obligatory (to me annoying and unnecessary) language, this book is well-written and engaging. And for days I had that Freddy Cannon song going around in my head!
Rated of 5
Another winner from Brennert
Brennert writes generation spanning novels that are well researched and well written with engaging characters, vivid place descriptions and enticing plots. In Palisades Park he does not disappoint. lthough Palisades Amusement Park itself is the main character, Eddie Stopka the main human character, his children and his friends are by no means shorted in either characterization or plotting.
Brennert' people react the way ordinary folks would in similar circumstances. His plot twists are reasonable but not mundane, exciting but not overwhelming. These are people you know and care about. Their story is arresting and satisfying and you are sorry when the book ends.
One of the things Brennert excels in is incorporating "real" people, places and events into his story line. Even if you are knowledgeable about the actual historical events they are so seamlessly incorporated you find yourself wondering only why you "didn’t remember" the fictional parts. Perhaps because I am from Chicago, I especially appreciated the inclusion of crime and mob influences. He handles racism with sensitivity and realistic drama. World War II and the Korean War are touched on in ways that will resonate with those affected by today’s military incursions. Divorce, women’s roles, faith, bullying, dysfunctional families, immigration and business practices are all timely and timeless topics well covered.
And, if you haven’t yet read Moloka'i and Honolulu his two previous best sellers – well, you should!
Rated of 5
Katherine S. (Seaford, VA)
A Roller Coaster Story
This book follows historical events through the eyes of a family of Palisades Amusement Park workers from 1922, through the Depression and WWII, up to 1974. They are likable dreamers who struggle with everyday lives. Many of the sights & sounds will be wonderfully familar to anyone growing up in NJ. Very descriptive, though sometimes slow.
Rated of 5
Kat F. (Palatine, IL)
I finished reading this book last week while on a cruise. It's a wonderful book for pleasure reading. I think we all have a "Palisades Park" from our youth - for me it was Riverview on the Northwest side of Chicago. I was taken there as a very little girl and have limited memories. The park was closed for a long time, but we would drive past nearly everyday and my parents would point out rides and stories from their younger days at the park.
These days we have the great corporate owned amusement parks as well as the local carnivals and fairs and generally we think we have an idea of what goes on behind the scenes, but this book dispels those ideas.
These was a lovely book that covered a lot of years, so naturally there were a lot of good times and bad times, both in history and personal lives. This book did a good job covering it all.
I will definitely be recommending this book to my book club.
Rated of 5
Mark O. (Wenatchee, WA)
Palisades Park: a high dive into a family
Palisades Park is the history you wish you had, for your family. The timeline stretches 50 years, from the early 1920s to the early 1970s, encompassing wars (two), desegregation (slowly), and crime (organized). The Stopka family is an extended example of John Lennon's "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." Palisades Amusement Park, a landmark in New Jersey, was the primordial soup in which the Stopka family evolved, providing a livelihood, an extended family, and a classless university.
For book clubs, Palisades Park has themes to discuss: trials by water and fire, leaving as a necessity to coming home, illusion and reality.
This seems an old-fashioned book to me, not a modern story of dark dysfunction or exploding terrorists but rather a story of the verities: do good work, play fair, dream with muscle, love people anyway.
Rated of 5
Diane D. (Blairstown, NJ)
One of my favorites!
This book is SO interesting, especially to someone (like me) who lives in New Jersey. The history of Palisades Park was something I expected, but I wasn't thinking about the other history that would play into the book...even though the book jacket mentioned it. I loved how it all came together, and I think it would make a great book club entry. The characters came alive, and I enjoyed seeing how their lives played out, through the emotional upheavals in the book.
Anyone, who lives in the area, would especially enjoy reading this book...even if (like me) they hadn't ever been to Palisades Park. My husband had been there, and the book makes me a bit jealous of that. The book stands on its own, even for those who have no connection with this area, and I urge them to read it, too.
Alan Brennert was born in Englewood, New Jersey, to Herbert E. Brennert, an aviation writer, and Almyra E. Brennert, an apartment rentals manager. He grew up in Cliffside Park and Edgewater, New Jersey, always living within a mile of the legendary Palisades Amusement Park. Since 1973 he has lived in Southern California, where he received a B.A. in English from California State University at Long Beach and did graduate work in screenwriting at UCLA.
In addition to novels, he has written short stories, teleplays, screenplays, and the libretto of a stage musical, Weird Romance, with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by David Spencer. He has developed screenplays for major studios, as well as miniseries, pilots and television movies, and earned an Emmy Award for his work as a...
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