The Bookie’s Son by Andrew Goldstein
Author: Andrew Goldstein
Genre: Fiction (New York City / Bronx / 1960s / Jewish-American / Family Saga / Coming-of-Age / Criminal Underworld / Family Conflict / Parental Conflict / First Sexual Encounter)
Publisher/Publication Date: (sixoneseven) books (5/1/2012)
Source: TLC Book Tours
Did I finish?: I did!
One-sentence summary: In the summer of 1960, Bronx-native Ricky Davis confronts his father's involvement with the criminal underworld when he tries to earn enough money to pay of their family's debt.
Do I like the cover?: I do -- it was designed by the author's son and is quite evocative of the novel's mood, setting, and family focus.
First line: The day started uneventfully.
Am... I in swoons over discovering a new publisher?: YES -- especially because this is, I presume, a local press. 617 is the area code for Boston and I'm tickled by their name!
Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy if you like NYC as a character, strong family narratives, coming-of-age stories, and conflict over family and loyalty.
Why did I get this book?: I love coming-of-age stories
Review: This is a devastating novel of a place, and an era -- the Bronx, 1960s -- and a young man's coming-of-age among horrifying violence. Ricky Davis, facing his Bar Mitzvah, has a crush on a Catholic girl in his building. His father, a dress cutter and part-time bookie, owes money to a local mobster, and one mistake after another leads to the family spiraling into real danger.
Ricky wants, of course, to make things better. He loves -- and fears -- his passionate, beautiful parents, a striking couple meant for better things, perhaps, but caught by real life. He tries to figure out how to make enough money to pay off his family's debt to the mobster so his parents can be happy again. He's encouraged by his rabbi to meditate on what it is to become a man, but Ricky faces challenges most adults don't have to grapple with.
Goldstein's writing is brisk, evocative; I raced through this book -- cringing, at times, because of the violence featured or sexual experiences of young Ricky (neither of which are gratuitous, and feel appropriate to the story) -- because I wanted to know how the Davis' would survive. At the heart of this book is family, and despite their dysfunction, Goldstein made me love them.
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