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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.
Another winner from Brennert
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!
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.
Katherine S. (Seaford, VA)
A Roller Coaster Story
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!
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.
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.
Mark O. (Wenatchee, WA)
Palisades Park: a high dive into a family
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.
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.
Diane D. (Blairstown, NJ)
One of my favorites!
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.
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.
Kay D. (Strongsville, OH)
Nice History of Palisades Park in a Fictional Mode
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.
Overall the book was an easy read. Characters were believable, but not developed very deeply. Historical information delivered throughout the fictional story was interesting and provided a good picture of the park through the years. At times I felt that the author jumped around a bit just to get various topics covered throughout the history of the park. Not sure the book needed to be the length it was - might have been better shorter and more focused. Enjoyed the book, but not one I would necessarily recommend to anyone unless they were looking for a light read and they were interested in historical fiction.
Marjorie H. (Woodstock, GA)
This book was most enjoyable. Everyone has a "Palisades Park" in their lives. Good times, good friends, good memories. While the Park too center stage, the characters gave a look into life during the mid-century. Dreams and ambitions take the forefront and are presented in a most delightful way. At times, bittersweet, the ending is very satisfying. I would highly recommend this book.