Palisades Park; Alan Brennert
St Martin's Press - Recorded Books
Palisades Park in New Jersey is the back drop for what will be a trip down memory lane for some readers. The story begins back in 1922 and spans some 50 years. The story follows the Stopka family, Eddie, his wife Adele, daughter Antoinette (Toni) and son Jack.
Eddie Stopka was just a young child in 1922 when he experienced Palisades amusement park for the first time. The sights, the smells, the salt-water pool and performers. For Eddie, these were memories which would last a lifetime. As a teen Eddie runs away from home, fleeing his abusive stepfather, but he returns to NJ and finds work at the amusement park, a place that brought him so much happiness as a child. He meets his wife Adele at Palisades, buys a concession stand that the two of them operate, and the couple have two children who are also raised with "Palisades" being a part of their inner being. Little Toni is a tomboy and a daredevil, she's also a dreamer who is determined to do anything she sets he mind to even when people tell her something can't be done. One of her dreams is to be a high diver. Her brother Jack is more reserved.
Over the course of the novel, and it's a long one, a lot of things happen: marriage, births, the Great Depression, wars, a fire at the park, and even racial unrest. Each of these events affects the Stopa family in some way. This isn't a novel with a lot of action, but it is a good story with well developed characters that I grew to care about. I enjoyed the interesting details about the park's history and about carnival life, but most of all I was just happy to feel like I really got to know the Stopka family.
Alan Brennert is a fine writer, one of his earlier novels, Moloka'i (2003) will long remain a favorite piece of literary fiction for me.
The audio book was read by Mark McCarthy, and was very well done. As a side note, Palisades Park, shut down completely on September 12, 1971 to make room for high rise condominiums.
(library audio book)