We first meet Lucy Appelbaum, the heroine of Paradise, New York, in 1970, as a nine-year-old girl enjoying her family's Catskills hotel, the Garden of Eden. Ten years later, having found nothing else at which she can distinguish herself, Lucy tries to save the Eden by capitalizing on a wave of nostalgia for the Borscht Belt and running the hotel as a sort of living museum of Yiddish culture.In the course of the season, Lucy battles her grandmother's attempts to sabotage Lucy's success, her parents' superstitious fears of anything that attracts attention to the Jews, and her brother's contention that what Lucy is doing is more a matter of ego than authentic religious feeling.Paradise, New York explores the comforts and complexities of American ethnic identity with a charming commitment to laughter and love.
Eileen Pollack grew up in Liberty, New York. She has received fellowships from the Michener Foundation and the MacDowell Colony, and her stories have appeared in Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, the Literary Review, the AGNI Review, Playgirl, and the New Generation. She lives in Belmont, Massachusetts, and teaches at Tufts University. She won the Pushcart Prize for her story “Past, Future, Elsewhere.”
A lovely yet dark testament to the Borscht Belt days. For those of us lucky to take a dip in its pool before it died, the taste of prune juice and the grins of vaudevillian-type comics are revived with this unique first novel. Mr. Jefferson is one of my all-time favorite characters. For those who love her writing but need a bit more of a manageable plot, you may enjoy The Professor of Immortality.
Eileen Pollack is a talented writer, but I didn't like this book very much. The premise is interesting, but I didn't find the plot very engaging, and the relationship between Lucy and Mr. Jefferson made me cringe.
Set in the Catskills in the 1970s,reflecting the setting the author grew up in, the novel spins a good story with interesting characters, although a few are too stereotyped. The grandmother was way overboard.