Warren Alexander's Cousins' Club is a backhanded ode to growing up Jewish in the 50s/60s in Brooklyn. But this isn't gauzynostalgia; fingers are sliced off, people die, the innocent are punished and the guilty crushed, often in brutally appropriate ways, andhilariously. The premise is that Grandma has decided the narrator is agenius (at birth) and must therefore be raised by ALL the misfits of the extended family, since none is capable of handling genius alone. Thenat the end, the narrator aims at revenge for his wacky upbringing. Thebook is populated by characters who can't catch a break, andinstinctively know it, but despite their gripes, manage to scheme andhope and look for a better life. The cousins have strong opinions,definite attitudes, and massive blind spots. It being the fifties, there are bullet bras, Buicks, good food, bad food, bad jokes (and goodones), the Mob, and some funny ideas about sex, too.
I found it all very enjoyable, and would recommend the book, especiallyif you're of a certain age, Jewish (even just a little), or a NewYorker. The only thing lacking was a strong through-story, and at times I missed one. Making up for it is an entertaining weave of shorter tales, funny characters, crazy episodes and absurdities, all written with asharp, satiric blade. Warren Alexander's Cousins' Club reminded mestrongly of Tristram Shandy--the main character is introduced prior tobirth and the circumstances of his birth alter his life greatly--both adisfiguring accident and an unfortunate history to the narrator's name.The quirky relatives with funny ideas and the amused detachment alladded to the impression: this a definite descendant of the LawrenceSterne novel. (One of my favorites, and most every English major'sfavorite, by the way--so very good company.) -Readers' Favorite
Plot: Alexander writes a darkly comic novel about an eccentric Jewish family that hatches a novel plan to raise a genius child. Prose: Alexander's prose is droll, yet highly readable, humming forward with whip smart observations that never come across as pretentious or overreaching.
Originality: The storys originality lies in the authors ability to craft fresh and full characters; there is no other family quite like the preposterous and wholly lovable one he introduces hereand that is quite a feat.
Character Development: The novel excels at providing sharp insights into characters through effective dialogue and succinct descriptions. The extended family members Alexander introduces are entirely real in their neuroses, insecurities, and absurdities. - Booklife