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The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  7,521 Ratings  ·  1,197 Reviews
In 1913, little Malka Treynovsky flees Russia with her family. Bedazzled by tales of gold and movie stardom, she tricks them into buying tickets for America. Yet no sooner do they land on the squalid Lower East Side of Manhattan, than Malka is crippled and abandoned in the street.

Taken in by a tough-loving Italian ices peddler, she manages to survive through cunning and in
Hardcover, 505 pages
Published June 10th 2014 by Grand Central Publishing (first published January 1st 2014)
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Debora Gant A lot of the background information such as the immigrant experience is based on fact. It does not look like much if anything is true about the main…moreA lot of the background information such as the immigrant experience is based on fact. It does not look like much if anything is true about the main characters. I would call the book mildly amusing.(less)

Community Reviews

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Mar 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book, but unfortunately it suffers from "chick lit cover syndrome". It's a smart, engrossing story about a brilliant and complicated woman that will most likely get overlooked due to the cheesy cover, which puts one in mind of shoes, and cupcakes, and yogurt, and tampons. Ignore the cover and read it anyway!
Apr 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
You'll want to fill your freezer with your favorite ice cream before starting this book. It's a rags to riches story about a Russian Jewish immigrant girl, Malka Treynovsky, who is transformed to a successful Ice Cream Queen, Lillian Dunkle.

Six year old Malka and her family arrived in New York City in 1913. They found that America was nothing like what they saw in the moving pictures, and were living in poverty. Three months later a horse pulling a cart of Italian ices ran over Malka and cripple
Jun 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: red-tent
If I hadn't been reading this for a book club, I'd have put it away unfinished. I didn't like the main character of Lillian at ALL. Typically, main characters show growth, but Lillian narrates the story as a 76-year-old woman. She even speaks yiddish when she didn't grow up Jewish. Every time she said "So sue me," or "Darlings," I wanted to pelt her with ice cream. Her personality is a caricature. Despite her tough life, however, I liked how her business smarts were always evident. But darlings, ...more
May 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014, arc
Gilman certainly makes a grand entrance with her debut novel The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street. With her stellar writing style, spot on characterization and well researched plush historical tarp both author and novel impress.

A rags to riches tale of Malka Bialystoker/Lillian Dunkle, a Russian immigrant turned America's queen of the creamy confection ice cream.

Spanning from the early 1900's into the 1980's, Gilman holds no punches regarding the description of the times and hardships faced b
Ryan Dejonghe
Jun 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
WARNING: you'll need to have ice cream easily accessible when reading this book; you will crave ice cream.

I'm giving Susan Jane Gilman props on her first piece of fiction: it’s fantastic. The subjects are interesting (immigrants, rags-to-riches, ice cream!), the writing is suburb, and the story is well told. It all fits together to create a page turner that fascinates and educates.

I’ve learned plenty on this reading journey: the science behind ice cream, the story of an ice cream barge towed in
Jul 18, 2014 rated it it was ok
The writer's constant use of the term "so sue me", and addressing the readers as "Darlings", I found to be cliched and extremely annoying, and this was after reading only about 70 pages! The main character of Malka/Lillian became less and less likable as the story progressed. The book needed a glossary for 'Yiddish' expressions, except, of course, for the stereotypical expressions of bubeleh, kindeleh, maideleh, schmucks. schlemiel, oy vey, sprinkled throughout page after page.

As Lillian goes fr
The most appealing aspect of this novel, for me, was the history and life of immigrants on New York's Lower East Side. This early history was very reminiscent of one of my favorite classics regarding immigrant life, Bread Givers By Anzia Yezierska, and quickly filled my hopes for the remainder of this novel. However, beyond this, I found the novel to be quite disappointing. Told in first person, the narrator quickly became annoying and too stereotypical for my liking. Malka Treynovsky, who later ...more
Laurie • The Baking Bookworm
My Review: I picked up this book from my local library because I was interested in a 'rags to riches' storyline and while this certainly was that kind of book it took on a different tone than I was expecting.

The book started out strong but my interest and the momentum of the storyline started to waver about halfway through especially as the business side of the storyline took the lead. Some of the ice cream information given was interesting but I wanted more detail about the characters and prog
Jun 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
I ate 3 ice cream bars while reading this yesterday.
Rhiannon Johnson
My Review:
Lillian Dunkle is in legal hot water but she still The Ice Cream Queen. And don't you forget it, darlings!

"Ever since my arrest at NBC, and my conviction for tax evasion, it has become open season on Lillian Dunkle. Never mind that the U.S. embassy was bombed in Beirut. Or that President Reagan has announced he's deploying a missile shield in outer space. Some weasel-faced journalists have nothing more important to do, it seems, than to dig up dirt about me."

The Ice Cream Queen of Orch
New York, 1913. Nach einem Pogrom in ihrer russischen Heimatstadt ist die jüdische Familie der kleinen Malka ausgewandert. Ursprünglich sollte es nach Südafrika zu einem Onkel gehen, doch der Vater hat heimlich stattdessen Karten für die Schiffspassage in die USA gekauft. Im neuen, verheißungsvollen Land steht die Familie jedoch ganz am Ende der Gesellschaft – sie muss im Wohnzimmer eines Schneiders zur Untermiete wohnen und die Kinder müssen sich ihren Lebensunterhalt mehr oder weniger selbst v ...more
Jun 21, 2016 rated it liked it
As a child, Malka Treynovsky immigrated to the United States with her family. She dreamed of being rich and having a happy family life. However, after arriving, the Treynovsky family could only find a place to live in an overcrowded tenement in the Jewish section of the lower east side in New York City. The family struggled to survive, and things continued to get worse.

With luck, guile, and determination Malka is able to capitalize on a series of events to achieve considerable fame and fortune,
Aug 25, 2014 rated it it was ok
I simply did not like the main character. The darlings and “so sue me” were obnoxious.
Jun 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating story overall. I found I needed to get almost halfway through the book before I found myself reaching for it at every spare moment. The early part was interesting, no doubt, but once the main character was fully established the story really took off with all her actions leading to so many interesting directions and consequences. While perhaps a most unlikeable character to many, Malka/Lillian is no doubt a firecracker and a fighter. As a woman business owner in the early 20th centu ...more
Judy Collins
A special thank you to Grand Central Publishing and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

THE ICE CREAM QUEEN OF ORCHARD STREET, a rags- to- riches historical fiction, of a Jewish immigrant, Malka Treynovsky, a determined six-year old girl from a poor childhood, set in 1913----flees Russia with her family, searching for the all American dream.

What a ride! An exciting journey and fate of one driven, complicated, determined, yet colorful and troubled protagonist ----- encounterin
Nancy Bello
Jan 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I just finished reading The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street and really wishing I had ice cream. As a well-written book, Susan Gilman tells the story of an immigrant coming to America wanting to live the "American dream" as she achieves the goal of going from living in the poorest neighborhoods to living the life of the rich many life lessons and educational lessons provided as this book is definitely a page-turner. A wonderful read about my favorite food.

Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, history
I've long been a sucker for books that cover huge swaths of American history, and this one fits the bill. The story of a Russian immigrant who arrives in New York shortly before WWI, as told from her perspective in the 1980s, The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street tells not only of how lives change, but how the life of everyday people changed.

Lillian Dunkle, who came to the country as Malka Treynovsky, is not a likable character. She grew up in a poor village in Russia, then the tenements of the
Maggie Anton
Jul 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
As usual, I leave plot summary to other reviewers and just share my opinion, so there may be some spoilers here. I enjoyed this historical novel a lot. The picture of 1910's Lower East Side's squalor, poverty, and misery were a good antidote to the more commonly written immigrant experience excellent; same for descriptions of 1950's polio epidemic and communist scare. The protagonist Lillian has a unique voice, reminding me of Joan Rivers. Funny, egotistical, poignant, brash. I wanted to cheer h ...more
May 24, 2014 rated it liked it
When she was the 6 year old Malka it was nearly a 4 star. But I am very generous in stretching to a 3 star for the rest of this book. Malka's trouble-maker personality stays constant throughout and the writing skill is easy read. Although the cliché phrases of Yiddish and Italian as colloquial language inserts tended to irritate me as just too cutesy/pat for the territory.

I'm a real, real hard audience on this one. I'm first generation and lived behind the store, was on the fruit wagon, opened t
Jun 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
It’s a rags to riches to . . . well, let’s not give anything away. “The Ice Cream Queen”s story is not a new tale, but the novel is bright and clever and fresh and lots of fun to read. It’s probably the character of Malka/Ninella/Lillian who is smart, foolish, fearless, huge-hearted and hard-hearted that makes it spark. Her love for her husband is such a sweet thing, her longing for her lost family (which sometimes isn’t lost enough) is heartbreaking. Even the stories of the Lower East Side have ...more
Esther Bradley-detally
Aug 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A tale of horror, spunk and our heroine with a tongue that could cut heads off and does is fantastic. Note: The cover is awful, awful, awful, awful. Doesn't relate to story at all.

Love the tone, of a deep buoyant pathos. what immigrants went through horrible. A good read!
Jul 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
One of the BEST books I have ever read. I would give it a 6 if I could. Excellent read.
A fantastic debut novel! I couldn’t have loved it more. I almost passed it over because while I actually like the cover art, it confused me as to what type of book it really was. But I am a sucker for a good immigrant story, and the whole ice cream twist seemed like an original idea – and it was. Though definitely very humorous in parts, it is a more serious work than the cover suggests; perfect for readers of literary and historical fiction alike.

Lillian Dunkle is a terrific antihero—and funny
Aritalectora empedernida
Una historia tierna ,seguramente real , que te hace pensar en unos helados deliciosos
Apr 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street
By Susan Jane Gilman
Releases 6/10/14
Provided free through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Rating: 5 bones

Finish Time: 7 nights. So good to be back to historical fiction. My favorite genre by far. I feel smarter! And what a great story to get back into it! I was a tad disappointed that the story was in fact not real. It was loosely based on the Carvel Ice Cream story, according to the Q & A with the author at the end. A very much appreciated segm
Talia Carner
Sep 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing

I am utterly enchanted by Susan Jane Gilman’s novel. This is an immigrant story the likes of which I had never read before. Even the living conditions in Manhattan’s Lower East Side are described better than in many novels I’ve read, filled with the foul smells and ceaseless din of life, with despair and hopelessness. The events in little Malka’s life, the repeated losses and abandonment, the utter poverty and searing loneliness—topped by becoming crippled—would have broken any child. Instead, t
Jul 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Don’t fall for the "chick lit” cover. This is a smart,sad, engrossing story about a brilliant and complicated (often unlikeable) woman that will most likely get overlooked due to the cheesy cover.

A rags- to- riches historical fiction, of a Russian Jewish immigrant, Malka Treynovsky, a determined six-year old girl from a VERY poor childhood, set in 1913 New York City.

An exciting journey and fate of one driven, complicated, determined, yet colorful and troubled protagonist ----- encountering misf
Lisa D - Sassy Cat Chat
Apr 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street is one of the brightest and well written novels I have read in a long time. Susan Jane Gilman tells the tale of Lillian Dunkle so completely and brilliantly that the reader dissolves into the pages of prose and wonderful characters. There is nothing about this book that I don't simply love.

The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street takes the reader on a journey from cover to cover. A Jewish girl from Russia, Malka, and her incredibly poor family immigrate to Amer
May 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
It was brutal when I had to put this book down for nearly a week--there was no way I was lugging a 500 page book with only 100 pages left to go on an airplane. But all week I looked forward to getting back to Lillian Dunkle and her story.

Read this if you are a fan of historical fiction set in the early 20th Century. If you grew up reading All-of-a-Kind Family books, read this now. I lost myself in Lillian's story--Lillian the prickly and somewhat unreliable narrator--and had a terrible time put
May 21, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
DNF at 59%

While I loved the historical setting of the novel, Lillian herself didn’t endear herself to me at all. I did admire her business savvy and her drive but that was it.

What she did (view spoiler) was the last straw.
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Susan Jane Gilman’s new novel, “The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street,” will be debuting in June 2014. She is also the bestselling author of three nonfiction books “Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress,” “Undress me in the Temple of Heaven,” and “Kiss My Tiara” and provides occasional commentary for National Public Radio. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan, and has wri ...more
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“Everybody thinks that once you reach the top, you can lie back on a divan with a goddamn mai tai. No. Wrong. Success is not a mountain climb. Success is a treadmill.” 10 likes
“Besides, nobody ever loves you the way you want.” 7 likes
More quotes…