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2.86  ·  Rating details ·  184 ratings  ·  33 reviews

Rockaway Beach, 2001. Sarah, a painter from southern California, retreats to this eccentric, eclectic beach town in the far reaches of Queens with the hopes of rediscovering her passion for painting. Sarah has the opportunity for a real gallery showing if only she can create some new and interesting work. There, near the beach, she hopes to escape a life caught in the stas
Paperback, 189 pages
Published May 28th 2013 by Soft Skull Press (first published January 1st 2013)
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Average rating 2.86  · 
Rating details
 ·  184 ratings  ·  33 reviews

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Karrie Higgins
Aug 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The thing that really got to me about Rockaway was its perfect depiction of the ache in a creative person's soul when the muse or the desire or the confidence has fled, for whatever reason. I have gone through painful phases in my life when I could not bear to put myself out there in essays or poetry or drawings, and during those periods, I never felt whole. I remember the acute terror of returning to creative work when I emerged from those dark times, and so when Sarah took her first tentative ...more
Aug 02, 2013 rated it it was ok

I'm really disappointed in this book.
I'm sorry I bought it instead of getting it from the library.
I don't think Sarah is a particularly likeable character, despite her caring for her parents. She's downright sarky and nasty.
The end of the book made no sense to me at all.
Are we supposed to guess that she gets on a plane on 9/11 and gets killed? I mean, why set the book pre-9/11 and then not even mention the big day? What a letdown.
And she throws all her expensive paints away, and prob
Dec 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: jewish, contemporary
Read my review on New York Journal of Books First. See my additional remarks in an article that appeared in a different and now defunct publication and begins with the next paragraph.

Looking for a good beach book? Try Tara Ison's third novel Rockaway, published today by Soft Skull Press, and find out if Sarah, a thirty something secular Jewish Californian and aspiring painter, can find romance with Marty, a newly Orthodox aging rocker old enough to be her father. Also see if despite the distract
Pete Dematteo
Jan 09, 2017 rated it did not like it
profoundly depressed but naïve, this sheltered, san diego sunshine girl just refuses to be malleable enough to drop her California attitude and let the good old borough of Queens transform her into a living person, who toughs it out and braces discomfort of any sort with a can-do attitude, or else!! she's an anti-Semitic, irreligious Jew who is deeply unsettled by Orthodox tradition and New York City edginess, which she is more accustomed to denying and concealing in herself as a Southern Califo ...more
Sep 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was a lovely read, but it left me yearning for more. I never quite knew where the story was headed, and as a result I felt like I was drifting in the ocean, waiting to see where it would take me.

I enjoyed the idea that we are all trapped by our circumstances to some degree. Even Sarah's friend Emily, with her perfect, enviable lifestyle, is limited by her children and her organic garden and her perfect husband. Watching Sarah struggle with her own desires and ultimately try to break away fr
Ann Anderson
May 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Ison's work is hard to describe, but I encourage you to dive in. Her sentences are so well-crafted, but I don't notice the writing - she puts me inside the story. It might be another girl discovers herself story, but in Ison's deft hands, it's so much more. Read it! ...more
Aug 11, 2018 rated it did not like it
I didn't like this book. The pacing was slow and the writing style did not appeal to me. I thought the book was boring, and only finished reading it because I needed it for a challenge. ...more
Jun 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Tara Ison's work succeeds on its own terms, and the terms are always clearly defined. This novel is no exception. For me it is the most impressive of Ison's three novels. Here she takes the biggest narrative risks, and all of them pay off. I can't elucidate without spoiling the plot and ending, but suffice it to say that the main character's arc of development is quite unusual and completely believable.

Sarah is a woman who does not want what her family, friends and culture believe she should wan
Michael Estey
Nov 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Poor, poor Sarah, an artist running away to the seaside to paint a picture.

Or was that an excuse to get away, to reinvent herself.

Of course it was well written, but the plot left me, a little murky, what happened, that wasn't fully explained, I would have liked more background detail with the plot, when the main character couldn't have been more real to me. I understood her, I felt her pain.

The ending left me miffed. Is that it! After that build up. My pace maker almost overloaded. I was left
Caren Nicholas
Jul 10, 2013 rated it it was ok
Again I was disappointed in a "best book" pick from Oprah magazine. I was grabbed by the review that said it was "a sheer joy to stay in the company of Ison's voice." I couldn't care about the main character. The thing I really disliked was her description of her aging,helpless parents---they were 62 years old! ...more
Dec 29, 2013 rated it did not like it
I did not like this book but I did finish it quickly (= one star). I was curious about how this story would play out but my scientific soul must be showing because I simply could not relate to the listless, creative block and angst of the main character.
Sue (booknbeachbag)
Jun 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
I expected the book to evoke the feeling of the Rockaways. For me, it did not.
Sep 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
very pretty & very slight
Feb 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Really liked this book. About a girl going to the beach and trying to put her life back together and the challenges that she faced in doing so!!!
Mar 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a quick read, but I found that it resonated deeply within me. The main character was very relatable.
Apr 17, 2014 rated it did not like it
I finished it because I paid for it. If it was a library book I would have given up. Slow and dry. Another bummer from the Oprah book list.
Aug 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015-reads
It turned out to be a different book then I thought it would be. I found it to be interesting, and hopeful.
Jun 13, 2017 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book; its subtlety. Certain things about Sarah creep up on you; Ison’s use of the metaphors of paint and religion and childbirth are weirdly effective despite the fact that so many writers use these same metaphors, and to not as great an effect.
I read this for my Art Club Book Club, for which we try to pick a book about an artist, usually a painter. This one is about an artist, but she spends the whole time not painting. It was not what we expected, and the main character could have been any type of artist, or even not an artist at all, but it was a very good book about a person who was stuck and had not been allowed to grow and evolve. Very good use of symbolism. The book also centers heavily on Judaism. I have read so many books late ...more
Wendy Jensen
Jul 03, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Sarah, the main character in this novel is a painter but I could never figure out if she had ever painted anything. In her 30's she has never really grown up but the story tells us that she takes care of her parents who can't do without her although she had not been living with them. The author is very good with colorful descriptions.

I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.
Oct 28, 2014 rated it did not like it
An ok read, but I found myself distracted by how foreign the place she was describing is from the Rockaway I've lived in my whole life. I am willing to allow artistic license, but the reference to the A train traveling "under" Jamaica bay suggested artistic laziness. The author may have spent a little bit of time on the westerly end of the west end, but she really didn't have much of a feel for anything beyond that. (less) ...more
Joy Irwin
Jul 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
While the prose in this book was delicate and finely tuned, the author didn't have a lot to say about her characters or their motivations. Books should leave us wanting more. This book made me want to move to the next one. Bad choice, Oprah. ...more
Rebekah Greene kogelschatz
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
I did not care for the book. A lot of jumping around from one thought to another.
Jun 27, 2013 rated it liked it
Whoa. Eloquent writing, rather depressing.
Christen Sarah
Jul 19, 2013 rated it liked it
Well-written but the plot never grabbed me. I was glad this book was short.
Jul 24, 2013 rated it did not like it
As a person who grew up in Rockaway, I was excited to read a book that took place there. However the book seemed to never really develop for me.
Aug 17, 2013 rated it liked it
an easy read, I read it in one sitting
Corinne Driscoll
Jun 21, 2014 rated it did not like it
Kept waiting to like ANYBODY in the book. No such luck. Ugh!
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ROCKAWAY one of Oprah's "Best Books of Summer!" 1 7 Jun 26, 2013 08:44AM  
Hello from Tara 1 12 Jun 07, 2013 09:09AM  

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Tara Ison is the author of the short story collection BALL, the novels THE LIST, ROCKAWAY, and A CHILD OUT OF ALCATRAZ, a Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Awards. Her essay collection REELING THROUGH LIFE was the winner of the 2015 PEN Southwest Award for Creative Nonfiction.

Her short fiction, essays, poetry and book reviews have appeared in Tin House, Salon, O, the Oprah Magazine, The Ken

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