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Paradise, New York: A Novel Hardcover – October 29, 1998

4.2 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Known for her witty stories (The Rabbi in the Attic and Other Stories), Pollack's first novel recounts the coming-of-age of assertive 19-year-old Lucy Appelbaum, who drops out of college to run her parents' decaying Borscht Belt hotel in the Catskills and falls in love with the hotel's African American handyman, proud, fastidious Thomas Jefferson. Though warmly observed, the novel is a disappointment, a well-intentioned but inert multicultural extravaganza in which the characters are mere props for Pollack to explore her abiding themes: the search for Jewish identity, the rift between generations, tolerance, the Holocaust. Jefferson?who reads Spinoza and Confucius, translates psalms from Hebrew and debates Talmud with Nazi death-camp survivor Shirley Feidel?is a saintly figure. After Lucy's racist grandmother forces him out of the Eden Hotel, he buys a nearby bungalow colony with the goal of transforming it into a new Monticello, repository of the wisdom of the world's great philosophers and mystics. Into the ethnic, religious and sexual melting pot Pollack throws a fraudulent Hasid; a gay chef and his lover who are into gourmet Jewish cooking; an evil homophobic twin; a cell of elderly Communists who incite the hotel's Puerto Rican and Vietnamese employees to picket; Lucy's assimilated brother, who's afraid of looking "too Jewish"; the brother's irascible Quaker wife; and a slick Irish-Catholic insurance adjuster who has sex with Lucy in a linen closet. Although Lucy's concern for the family business gives the novel moving passages, the rest is an unholy goulash of good intentions gone awry.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

From the author of the story collection The Rabbi in the Attic (1991), a finely crafted, if underpowered, first novel detailing the journey to wisdom of a young woman who grew up in a Borscht Belt hotel. With messages not writ too largethough with enough signifiers hinting at their presencePollacks tale focuses on narrator Lucy Appelbaum, who lives in a Catskills hotel called the Garden of Eden, near a town called Paradise. Her expulsion leads to wisdom. Growing up, Lucy enjoys a close-knit Jewish world; the friendship of Thomas Jefferson, a self-taught black handyman; and a sense of being special lost only when she leaves for college. In reality, Eden isnt entirely flawless: Lucy's grandmother, disappointed by her life, refuses to improve the place; the food is stodgy, uninspired; the decor shabby; the entertainment increasingly third-rate. And, the guests (aging Communists, Yiddish-speaking families, and a couple who survived the Holocaust) arent getting any younger. Lucy's parents want to sell the hotel, but her grandmother doesn't, so Lucy decides to drop out of college to run it. In the year that follows, she restores the hotel; employs two gay kosher chefs; and dismisses Thomas, though realizing she loves him. When her unintended negligence causes the death of a popular guest, and when the hotel later burns downin a fire that symbolizes what Lucy must lose before she really gains wisdomshe finally has to leave Paradise and head out into the world. There, though a reunion with Thomas fails, she begins to ``understand that the only true refuge for a person in pain is in another's heart.'' An accomplished mix of profundity and wit thats undercut by characters and a story more like talking points than fully-fledged aspects of a novel. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Temple University Press; 1 edition (October 29, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566396573
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566396578
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,389,255 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on November 29, 1998
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I just loved this novel -- I kept reading it all night and neglected everything else until I had finished it. The characters are intelligent, funny, imperfect, mostly well-meaning, sometimes highly eccentric, self-aware, and very memorable. Lucy, who tells the story, is lovable, smart without being cynical, moving and even heroic. Eileen Pollack makes the failing Catskills resort she writes about seem so real that reading this (very contemporary) book gives the kind of pleasure that you get from just losing yourself in a wonderfully written 19th century novel. Like Grace Paley, Eileen Pollack allows her characters great human dignity, even as she shows their human weaknesses. She is funny, but never unkind. Reading this, I felt I had been on a trip I was happy to have taken, and I came back to my own life knowing more than I had when I set out on that adventure. The book is about all the things that matter: love, family, the ways we embrace or reject our histories, the need to make something out of ourselves, the effects of nostalgia. This novel is the real thing -- I recommend it highly!
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By A Customer on August 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I started reading this book after I read a review of it in the Boston Globe over the summer; it sounded like an intriguing book. After neglecting my work (and sleep) to read it (twice!) and after thinking about it again and again all this time, I felt compelled to put in my two cents' worth here. For starters, the reviewer didn't come close to praising this book enough. This is a fabulously entertaining, smart, touching book, intelligent and readable at the same time. I'm glad to see that other readers loved this book as much as I did (except for that last review, which is really rather annoying and confused... I mean, Faustian? The point is, this is an amazing book). Reading this book propels you into a completely different world, one where you are glad to linger and look around. This is the kind of book that makes you want to be friends with the protagonist. I truly loved this book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book after reading a positive review in Hadassah magazine, and the praise was well warranted. I enjoyed the story line, and particularly the hopes, dreams, and struggles of the characters. Ms. Pollack tackled the subject of race relations in a satisfying way. The Catskills were a place I vaguely remember visiting as a child when my grandparents would make their annual summer trek. To learn something of the history and demise of the "borsht belt" made for fascinating reading. Most interestly, I mentioned the book to a non-Jewish, 65-year old neighbor when I was through, not necessarily thinking she'd want to read it. It turned out that she and a close friend worked at one of those hotels in the 1950's when they were in college. Not only did she love the book, she told me the portrayal of the dynamics of hotel life was right on target and even helped her understand some of what she experienced that summer.
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