Palisades Park

Brennert, Alan

Book - 2013
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
Palisades Park
Sharing a family life in the 1930s near the legendary Palisades Amusement Park, a family of dreamers explores ambitions and cultural boundaries that are challenged by the realities of the Great Depression, multiple wars, and the park's eventual closing in 1971.

Publisher: New York : St. Martin's Press, c2013.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780312643720
Characteristics: 421 p. ;,25 cm.


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Jan 05, 2014
  • maggiemca rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

This book is a bit disappointing. I was expecting a sweeping novel with interesting character development, but it seemed a shallow account of a family's struggle to make a living set against the backdrop of a New Jersey amusement park. The coming-of-age story of the daughter was not as well drawn as I would have liked. I grew up in New York City and visited Palisades in the sixties and found that this novel did pull back the curtain of magic and illusion for me...'carney life' was just as messy as real life can sometimes be!

Dec 05, 2013
  • Bearwomyn rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

My what a fast and delicious read. We are taken on a roller coaster ride through generations of families and a country, through WWI to Korea, shared with us using the sub culture of life at New Jersey's Palisades Amusement and Pleasure Park. Life's joys and tragedies are revealed through an exotic cast of characters of the Park. A fat lady, high divers on fire, tattooed people, buskers, french fry vendors, corrupt police, creative marketers, park owners and park goers...Just like the country, the families grow up, experience death and birth, making money, losing money and more importantly losing their innocence and rose-colored glasses...yet they march forward digging deep into their pockets for the next handful of hopes and dreams. We have damaged soldiers, Hawaiian tiki bars, lawless mobsters, fires, temptation, poison snakes, charming carousels, committed mothers, wanderlust, imagination and long swims across the Hudson. Because I did not read the summary prior to reading the book, it was a real pleasure for me at the end to discover that this is an historic fiction. I learned that Palisades Park and it's outlandish characters were real. It tickled me to think that the 80 year old high diving woman, on the road in her tiny bus, was once alive with her feet on this earth. A reminder of the tenacity, courage, creativity and visions that are the cornerstones of the American Dream. Highly recommend.

Jun 07, 2013
  • jeanner222 rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

Brennert is the author of two spectacular novels set in Hawaii: Moloka’i and Honolulu. I loved Moloka’i, so my expectations for his latest effort were very high.

Palisades Park is definitely a novel more focused on setting, rather than characters. Or, the setting is a character, the main character. That’s kind of disappointing.

Anyway, PP spans from the 1920s to the 1970s and focuses on one family’s experiences with the park. Eddie Stopka attends the park once as a child and returns as an adult and concessionaire. Half of the novel focuses on his story.

The other half of the novel focuses on Eddie’s daughter. Antoinette “Toni” Stopka grows up at the park and dreams of becoming a high diver. And for Toni, that dream becomes a reality.

Along the way, there is a lot of family drama and quite a few growing pains. Outside of the park, there are wars to be fought, and Stopka men will fight them.

Initially, this novel did not appeal to me. Fortunately, when the focus switched to Toni, my opinion of the novel changed. I loved Toni and her diving aspirations. This is a wonderful tribute to Palisades Park and an engaging summer read. Give it a chance!

Apr 30, 2013
  • librarycats rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

I enjoyed it, almost as much as Brennert's other two novels. Perhaps it is because I grew up on the East coast, knew people like the characters in the book, their expressions and culture. I also visited the park in 1969 and 1970. My sister and I agree, that we wouldn't recommend the book to everyone, but we did like it. I feel the author writes a good story and one that compelled me to read.

Apr 28, 2013
  • Eil_1 rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

Certainly not to be compared to his other 2 books. It's a nice stroll down memory lane for the author with characters set up after actual people who lived and worked at the Park. Naturally, the family depicted in the story are fictional. Nevertheless, I found it less than stellar. You'd have to read it yourself to see if you agree that it's hardly worth the 'read'.


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