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North River

3.76  ·  Rating Details ·  3,361 Ratings  ·  581 Reviews
It is 1934, and New York City is in the icy grip of the Great Depression. With enormous compassion, Dr. James Delaney tends to his hurt, sick, and poor neighbors, who include gangsters, day laborers, prostitutes, and housewives. If they can't pay, he treats them anyway.

But in his own life, Delaney is emotionally numb, haunted by the slaughters of the Great War. His only d
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published June 11th 2007 by Little, Brown and Company (first published June 1st 2007)
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The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. SalingerThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldA Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty  SmithBreakfast at Tiffany's by Truman CapoteExtremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Tales of New York City
124th out of 1,110 books — 951 voters
Forever by Pete HamillThe Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom WolfeThe Alienist by Caleb CarrPresence by Perie WolfordExtremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Best New York Novels
8th out of 63 books — 92 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Elizabeth (Alaska)
Jun 20, 2009 Elizabeth (Alaska) rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-star-reads
I knew before I finished that I would score this one 5 stars. It's a love story, but so much more than a love story. Dr. Jim Delaney and Ruth Verga are people you would be proud to know. Not because they are such perfect people (they're not) but because deep down they are good, honest, and courageous people. There is a short interview with the author in the edition I read, and he says he made the Greenwich Village neighborhood one of the characters of the story. Aha, I thought, that's at least ...more
Dec 28, 2008 Megan rated it it was ok
This book was strange for me. It was interesting enough that I wanted to keep reading it, but when I finished I realized it wasn't really that good. I think the problem for me was that the book seemed like it was leading up to something really big. I kept waiting and waiting for it, but it turned out to be extremely anti-climatic.
Chad Sayban
Jul 08, 2016 Chad Sayban rated it liked it
Shelves: good, own, home-library
More reviews at The Story Within The Story

New York City of the mid-1930s is in the grips of the Great Depression and Dr. James Delaney is alone with his work. While he tends to the sick and injured all around his neighborhood, his daughter has left for Mexico and his unforgiving wife has vanished. But when Delaney returns home one snowy night, he finds his three-year-old grandson in front of his house with a note from his daughter. Overwhelmed, Delaney hires a tough Sicilian woman named Rose to
Jul 06, 2009 Maria rated it liked it
I've never read anything by this man before. My father was born in Hell's Kitchen, I myself grew up on the NY streets, and I was curious to see how Hamill portrays this very interesting depression era. From what I can glean, it's historically accurate, and while I don't particularly care for this guy's style I have to admit I got a thrill reading about "my territory." In fact, I wanted more -- like, WHERE on 18th Street? It's a good, fast-paced novel, and Hamill makes his reader care about his ...more
Jun 10, 2014 Neil rated it it was amazing
With rich characters and a treatment of setting that drops you into time and place perfectly, it's hard to see what some readers aren't liking about this book. I guess they were hoping for something more plot-driven with big twists or some kind of wild climax. I suspect they are hoping for something either more darkly noir or, conversely, a much lighter conventional romance. Instead, they get something that stays in the real space between: a story with people who are exceptional but still ...more
Apr 30, 2009 George rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pete-hamill
Pete Hamill's book, 'North River' is peopled by a cast of Runyonesque-type characters who should be both colorful and interesting, but, somehow, come across in this story a little flat. Perhaps that was a reflection of the times: the 1930's, at the height of the Depression.

I love New York City, and reading about its history. The only thing I seemed to learn about New York from this novel, however, is that Washington Square was once a potter's field. I didn't know that.

I seem to remember enjoying
Jan 30, 2015 Janet rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

It was OK. But what I was looking for was typical Hamill: gritty and sharp. And the first couple of chapters led me to believe I was going to get just that.

But then the story devolved... almost to the point of being a Chick Book with nice, safe, predictable characters and an ending to match.

One thing even more off putting than the story's predictability was Hamill's obvious respect for the Tammany Hall machine that still had power in the early '30s.

I don't think I've ever heard Tammany Hall
Jul 08, 2008 Rose rated it it was amazing
This book is a must read for any one who lived and loved in Brooklyn after the war.
Pete Hamill has a way of writing that makes you feel as if you are a part of the story.
Fantastic read.
Nov 10, 2008 Carol rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes good fiction
Recommended to Carol by: Tom Hanks
Reviews can bounce between extremes depending upon the reviewers. It helps to find someone who shares similar taste and that you know that if they like a book, you will most likely enjoy it as well. Oddly enough, this person for me is Tom Hanks. Yes, the actor Tom Hanks. I subscribe to his myspace blog because usually in the Fall he posts the books that he read over the summer and includes commentary. His taste is eclectic, and has caused me to read books I might not have picked up otherwise. ...more
May 20, 2016 Sue rated it really liked it
I was surprised that this book did not have a higher Goodreads rating and more readers, as I found it quite lovely. Perhaps I was predisposed to like it since the main character, Dr. James Delaney, reminded me quite strongly of my grandfather, also a World War I veteran and doctor practicing during the Great Depression. Though my own grandfather lived and worked in small town Indiana rather than urban New York, his quiet competence, his strong ties to the community in which he lived and worked, ...more
Aug 22, 2008 Lori rated it it was ok
James Delaney is a local New York City doctor during the Depression who takes care of his neighbors and his WWI veteran comrades, who also happen to be mobsters. Delaney's wife and daughter, both of whom never got over his voluntary enlisment in the war, both have disappeared, leaving him lonely, self-doubting, frozen (lots of too-obvious freezing/thawing imagery). One wintry day Delaney arrives home to find his grandson left on his doorstep. He hires an illegal immigrant, a younger Sicilian ...more
I read Pete Hamill books for many reasons, but one is because I love to see how he plays out his adoration for New York City. The city is more than a location for Hamill, it is a character in his writings. The man is in love with the place, its setting, history, people, quirks and sites. Through him, I get glimpses into the New York of the past, in the days before chain stores and globalization. It's one of the main things that keeps me reading Hamill -- he keeps declaring his love, and I keep ...more
Jun 18, 2010 Cheryl rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
Set in the early 1930's in New York, Dr. Jim Delany has returned to his medical practice after serving in and being wounded in World War I. But he feels empty and lonely. His wife has deserted him, and his daughter has eloped with her Mexican husband. His life suddenly changes when he finds his 3 year old grandson on his doorstep--his daughter has gone to find her missing husband. Delany hires an illegal Italian immigrant, Rosa, to act as the child's caregiver while he tends to his practice. ...more
Seth Gurss
Sep 07, 2007 Seth Gurss rated it liked it
Shelves: sethsshelf
I enjoyed this book. It's not as good as "Forever", another of Hammill's books, but it is written in a similar style and does well at making the reader feel as if they are in New York in the 30s. The characters are rich and Hammill does a good job at moving the plot along at a quick pace. I lost track of the time in the book periodically and had trouble really understanding why Delaney was in this predicament. The true richness of this book, however, are the characters themselves. Hammill is ...more
Oct 18, 2011 Cathy rated it it was amazing
North River, my first book by Pete Hamill. (Thank you Susan.) Well I'm a fan. Just a lovely story with such interesting characters. Dr. Delaney and Rose are such a blessing to Delaney's grandson Carlito. I loved how this little boy changed their lives and brought them together. I haven't been to New York since my junior year in high school. Hamill makes me want to go back. I'm looking forward to reading more books by this author.
Sep 17, 2008 Kim rated it it was ok
The premise of this story was interesting. A doctor in the 1930's deals with WWII, the depression, gang crime and life in New York City. Then his daughter leaves her 3 year old son in his care while she goes off chasing her runaway husband. I like the narrative and the story that develops between the main characters, but after awhile, it got predictable and boring. Some stronger editing could have made this book a winner.
May 10, 2014 tsgarp77 rated it it was amazing
Everything Pete Hamill writes I absolutely love. Not only does he tell great stories with people that are real & true, he uses NYC as a character also. I always fall in love with NY in his stories just like I fall in love with the Midwest in Kent Haruf's books. The settings are characters in and of themselves.
Miranda Stockton
Oct 05, 2009 Miranda Stockton rated it it was ok
After reading this book I closed it and made a fart noise. Boring. I gave it two stars because it at least had enough plot to get me through to the end. And it drove me crazy how the main characters kept referring to the grandson as "the boy" and "boy". Who does that in real life?
Jun 11, 2012 Karen rated it really liked it
This book was about a struggling doctor during the Great Depression. He cares for his patients, his young grandson and the live-in caretaker. As the story unfolds, love grows stronger.
Theresa Hale
Feb 17, 2008 Theresa Hale rated it it was amazing
I love Pete Hamill and the way he writes puts me right in the story. This is a great novel that I didn't want to end!
Joan Fitz-gerald
Apr 15, 2015 Joan Fitz-gerald rated it really liked it
His descriptions of old NYC are evocative and nostalgic. He captures an era and knows his characters.
Jan 24, 2016 Karen rated it it was amazing
Hamill makes 1930s NYC come alive. His characters are real and engaging.
Oct 03, 2014 Lynda rated it it was ok
Probably 2.5 stars. Not a bad book, just nothing compelling.
Sep 18, 2015 Joanne rated it really liked it
Loved it!
Oct 31, 2014 Anne rated it really liked it
It is 1934, and New York City is in the icy grip of the Great Depression. With enormous compassion, Dr. James Delaney tends to his hurt, sick, and poor neighbors, who include gangsters, day laborers, prostitutes, and housewives. If they can't pay, he treats them anyway.

But in his own life, Delaney is emotionally numb, haunted by the slaughters of the Great War. His only daughter has left for Mexico, and his wife Molly vanished months before, leaving him to wonder if she is alive or dead. Then,
Nov 29, 2016 Joanna rated it it was amazing
Pete Hamill is the quintessential New York writer. As such he is also the author of more than one 'Great American novel' because one cannot write a novel expressive of America without the inclusion of characters whose grit, heart and soul speak of the 'real' America.

Hamill brings New York in its subtle, always elusive and multitude of guises alive. You feel the breath of it, the power and lure of it, the city enveloped within each character, animating each in ways that give them depth that many
Judy Spare
Oct 27, 2016 Judy Spare rated it really liked it
Good story, predictable ending.
Oct 28, 2016 Kristin rated it it was ok
So far, this book has made me roll my eyes far too often. Everyone is so predictable.

update on finishing: Well, at least my specific plot predictions turned out to be wrong. And it was cool to see The Boy develop over the 6 months of the story.
Sep 05, 2012 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
Life is layered. Humans seamlessly move hour by hour through family life, commuter life, work life, social life, whatever else life, and then go home again for family life. Our minds flit from one subject to another without anyone around us realizing we are thinking about pain, wondering about life, experiencing beauty, seeking love. We’re seldom noticed and never congratulated for retaining sanity as long as we remain reliable.
Through Hamill’s writing I sat on the reliable shoulders of Dr. Jam
May 09, 2012 Stephen rated it really liked it
James Delaney is a struggling physician , practicing on Manhattan's Westside, in the middle of America's worst depression.He is a veteran of WWI and has the scars to prove it. He lives in the ethnic boiling pot that made the West Side of Manhattan famous. He is a doctor to all who seek his help, whether they can afford to pay or not. However , he was apparently no help to his wife, Molly or his daughter, Grace.
They have both left him. Molly, because she was angry with his going off to war and
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Beyond North River 2 36 Feb 29, 2012 05:01PM  
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Pete Hamill is a novelist, essayist and journalist whose career has endured for more than forty years. He was born in Brooklyn, N. Y. in 1935, the oldest of seven children of immigrants from Belfast, Northern Ireland. He attended Catholic schools as a child. He left school at 16 to work in the Brooklyn Navy Yard as a sheetmetal worker, and then went on to the United States Navy. While serving in t ...more
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