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Eloise F. (Poway, CA)
The setting and the story were better than the book as a whole
I had problems with the writing style. I kept thinking "what a great story, what a great setting, I just wish the writing would live up to the story and setting." It felt 'corny' with unrealistic dialogue. Then the author used a different voice at the very end and I felt that chapter was the most well written in the entire book. Perhaps what I saw as the 'corny' style was intentional, but it didn't grab me. Still, I enjoyed it and felt like I had some new insight into bygone days.
Carol R. (Foster City, CA)
Brings Back Memories
Wow - "Palisades Park" brought back memories. I never went to the park but I remember the jingle, Callahan's hot dogs, the big sign, Cousin Brucie and so much more. I enjoyed the novel very much. Encompassing 75 years of the 20th century, the characters live their lives around the park but also live life in the larger context of world wars, family joys and sorrows and important historical and political issues.
Cam G. (Murrells Inlet, SC)
The book drags a bit, mostly in the first half. However, the story is engaging and keeps the reader hooked. I'd recommend this book to baby boomer and those older. This book would also appeal to readers interested in NJ history and the history of amusement parks and traveling shows.
Palisades Park is Alan Brennert's third novel, all of which I have read, and, while Molokai was very much my favorite, I found this to be a wonderful history of the Park as well as an entertaining story of the Stopka family whose lives were interwoven throughout the book. This is a book that will hook you right from the beginning through to the end!
Elizabeth A. (Manlius, NY)
Alan Brennert has produced a novel that is a well-researched homage to an iconic amusement park and the midway carny lifestyle. Many people will find this work of historical fiction appealing as it traces the life of Eddie Stopak in the 1920s as he settles into a life centered on Palisades Park and raises a family through decades of various upheavals--both personal and societal. Told in a very linear fashion, the focus switches to Eddie's daughter as she struggles with the challenges of growing up. Many readers will enjoy the setting and a "family saga" story. I felt fairly neutral about this book. I thought the book bogged down in parts with too much detail that detracted from the story and at other times characters and events were treated quickly and superficially. The book seemed very uneven to me. It's not a good sign when I keep checking to see how many pages left to read!
Mary G. (Purcellville, VA)
Alan Brenert used the stories of the people who worked at Palisades Park to tell both its history and offer a working-class perspective of important events in American history ranging from the Great Depression, through the Second World War, to the Civil Rights movement and Korea. Seeing history unfold through the lives of the Stopka family was an absorbing and enjoyable experience.
Diane M. (Salt Lake City, UT)
Well written historical fiction
I found this story of a family and the community they share with a wide range of interesting characters to be very engaging. I read it straight through over a weekend. The book begins in1922 when a boy spends the best day of his childhood at the amusement park. The story continues to the park's dismantling in 1974. The depiction of carnival life and particularly that of the high divers is fascinating. The ending felt a little contrived. However, this is well written historical fiction and I would recommend this book.
Ann B. (Bethlehem, PA)
Take the ride with Palisades Park
Alan Brennert has written a wonderfully descriptive book that entertains, enlightens, and at times leaves you breathless.
Martha D. (Poway, CA)
A window to a time gone by
As a ten year old boy, Eddie Stopka spent the best day of his life with his family at Palisades Park in 1922 . There was a reverence he felt just looking up at the great wooden roller coaster, one he says was only reserved for Babe Ruth and Bob Meusel. While Eddie's journey is the essence of the story, the other main character is Palisades Park. We slide back and forth between their stories, celebrating their triumphs and mourning their miseries. As readers, their journeys open a window in time and allow us a glimpse of the life of a great amusement park and the historic events that shaped them both.
I visited many of the well known north eastern amusement parks in the 50s and 60s, so it was natural for me to be drawn to this book. The great surprise was the intimate story that surrounded and intertwined the characters and park.
Although one may begin to compare this story to "Water For Elephants", they are different. While "Water for Elephants" is a story of a fictitious traveling circus, Alan Brennert has taken great care to accurately tell the real story of Palisades Park.
"Palisades Park" is equal parts an adventure, fictional memoir and historic account. I believe it will lead to superb discussions in book clubs.
I'll own up to having fantasies about this time period and place. So, right away, this book had me. I loved the characters, they jumped off the page and became real to me. The story flowed and made me nostalgic for a time and place I didn't know but wish I did. Now I feel I do know it. Wonderful book, I highly recommend it.