by Alan Brennert
(St. Martin’s Press)
It might be hard to imagine a place as magical as N.J.’s own Palisades Park. But back in its heyday, arguably the three decades of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, this amazing amusement park on the high Hudson hill in Northern NJ was such a magical place that those who grew up going to it, or those who just only ever heard of it, have the park stamped in their memory or imagination unlike very few other spots.
Author Alan Brennert is of a generation who visited the park and evidently holds it deeply in his thoughts. His aptly named Palisades Park is a sprawling historical fictional overview of the place and its surrounding working-class suburban environs as seen through the Stopka family, and it’s head, Eddie. We watch Eddie’s family grow (his wife and two kids) basically as they live, play and work (Eddie and his wife Adele meet in, make love in and share a concession stand in the park) for many a year.
Basically, we get a story told around Palisades Park from the year 1922 to 1974; like I said, this is a sprawling story, some 416 pages long. It’s a breezy read, full of rich descriptions of the place and time and while at times I feel Brennert overstays his hand-holding, sometimes belaboring the obvious ways his characters are feeling, Palisades Park is a fine, entertaining read that certainly throws the reader down the rabbit hole and back into a time and place gone forever.