Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Palisades Park - Book Review

Palisades Park was an amusement park in New Jersey that brought joy and entertainments to thousands of park goers each summer during most of the twentieth century. Lifting public morale during the Great Depression and World War II and becoming the "hip" place to be during the fifties and sixties, Palisades Park has a fascinating history.

Author of Moloka'i and Honolulu, Alan Brennert's newest novel Palisades Park is a moving tribute to the park and the people that worked the concessions, the rides and the famous salt water pool. Toni and her family have been tied to Palisades Park since her parents met there while working concession stands in 1930. Toni grows up at the park and dreams of following in the footsteps of the women high divers she loves to watch perform in the shows. The novel intricately intertwines Toni and her family's story with the history and people of Palisades Park.

Most often reading like a narrative history, Brennert includes many fascinating details of the park's history in Palisades Park. He is at his best when writing about the park--the scene where the park burns after a ride starts on fire is dramatic and emotional. However, the main fictional characters in the book are treated with kid gloves. We never get too close to them. In spite of the fact that the characters often make major decisions, I didn't feel a connection to their emotional state of mind. It's hard to describe but there seemed to be a barrier between the characters and the reader, as if Brennert was scared of getting too close to them and shifting focus from the park. He would create a scene that should have/could have climaxed into an emotional catharsis but Brennert would back off and move on quickly to some historical detail about the park.

I found it dull in the beginning and had a really difficult time sticking with the novel. It does improve as Toni gets older and pursues her dreams of becoming a high diver. The history of Palisades Park is really interesting and filled with nostalgia and memories. If anything, the park is the main character of Brennert's novel and it does come alive within its pages.

** I received a complimentary copy of Palisades Park in exchange for my honest review. I received no additional compensation. **

1 comment:

anna said...

Molokai was good but Honolulu was awful. I didn't feel attached to those characters either and found myself completely disinterested. The premise of this book is awesome, too bad it wasn't well executed.