Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Palisades Park: Review

Palisades Park
By Alan Brennert

Do you remember the song, Palisades Park? or visiting the area of Ft. Lee New Jersey, there is fun history there. There is magic that happens every time you walk through the amusement park in the summer time.  The Palisades Amusement Park was built in the early twentieth century and survived till it closed its door definitely in 1971.  The novel is a tribute to the growing up youth and frequent visitors that came to the Palisades Park.

The novel is set in the 1940's. It is about the Stopka family. They worked at the Palisades Amusement Park. There was Eddie, the father and Adele( mother), Antoinette, and Jack.  Eddie and Adele fell in love and went  to work in the amusement park.  They were working and then tragedy took place, a fire.  After the fire the Rosenthal's bought the amusement park.

Eddie decided he wanted to open a concession stand making french fries, not any typical french fries, but  vinegar french fries. These french fries were made with a secret ingredient. That made their business thrive.

Their daughter,  very un-lady like Antoinette doesn't like her name, and wants her name to be Toni.  At school she tells her classmates and her teachers her name is not Antoinette anymore, but Toni-the name sticks.  Toni likes watching the high dive acts.  She watches the high divers, in the great big salt water wave  pools and wants to be like them.  She watches them dive from 50  feet in the air. She watches them do different feats, such as fire is surrounding the pool, and they dive in between the circle of fire.

The back drop of the story is the people behind the amusement park. The entertainers called the" Carnies".
The sight and sounds, and description of the amusement park at times made you feel like you were there.
From the Cyclone, to the Mouse, Tilt-a-Wheel, etc.

The bombing of Pearl Harbor, the start of WW2.  Everything changes and Eddie decides to enlist. He feels very guilty that all his buddies are going over there, and he is not helping with the cause.   Adele is very angry when she learns what Eddie has enlisted without consulting her.  But life carries on, and Adele continues to work with her children at the concession stand.

While Eddie is in the Pacific, Adele is fooling around with other men.   She goes in other men's trailer and Toni spies them . How can she ever forgive her mother?  When Eddie comes back their mother, runs off to Chicago to pursue her dream.

I am not going to spoil the rest of the book. You will just have to find out for yourself.  Have some fun with the song, Palisades Park with Freddy Cannon.

My Review: I had acquired the book from the publicist a couple of years ago. I have been meaning to read this for awhile. I lived in Ramsey, NJ which was not far. But, we moved here about the same time the park was closing. 

  I did grow up in the summers at my grandmother's. Every summer I would visit my grandmother at her beach house in Hull, Massachusettes.  Every summer my grandmother would take me to Paragon Park( an amusement park)   I don't think it was as large as Palisades, which was thirty acres.  

 But I still remember going every year.  I remember the rides more than the concession stands, and the show acts. One ride I remember beside the baby roller coaster, was the water ride that was like the movie, the African Queen.   Tilt-A-Whirl, and the worst ride I was scared when the ride's floor would drop and you were held by gravity. 

Know I will tell you my thoughts of the book.  I am sorry to tell you the book was slow moving at first. But as soon as Toni became a teenager that is when I connected with the story.  But still the story dragged. There are plenty of times, I wanted to stop reading. But, because the book was picked for our book club I had to finish it.  To me this book is a good light beach read, not a book club book. Unless you want to talk about fun times in your youth.  It was a period piece about living and working in the amusement park.  It seemed like a lonely existence living and working in the amusement park. 

The actually fun part was the publicity that made the park thrive with the song, Palisades Park.  How millions of people came to the park because of the publicity. They came from all over the country.

   I think if you grew up there at Palisades Park you would appreciate and love this book. But someone who has never visited there, the story dragged abit. but what did touch me, was the historical references. The other characters, how they performed their acts, how they prepared the amusement park each year.  The background, and supportive characters.  I remember the tacky restaurants, that were decorated with tacky tropical themes in the Chinese restaurants in the 60's. 

  The book was was a love song, and tribute to Palisades Amusement Park.   You can read an article about why the author wrote the book, and growing up at the park here.

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