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by Alan Brennert
Hardcover : 421 pages
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Growing up in the 1930s, there is no more magical place than Palisades Amusement Park in New Jersey—especially for seven-year-old Antoinette, who horrifies her mother by insisting on the unladylike nickname Toni, and her brother, Jack. Toni helps her parents, Eddie and Adele Stopka, at the stand where they sell homemade French fries amid the roar of the Cyclone roller coaster. There is also the lure of the world’s biggest salt-water pool, complete with divers whose astonishing stunts inspire Toni, despite her mother's insistence that girls can't be high divers.
But a family of dreamers doesn't always share the same dreams, and then the world intrudes: There's the Great Depression, and Pearl Harbor, which hits home in ways that will split the family apart; and perils like fire and race riots in the park. Both Eddie and Jack face the dangers of war, while Adele has ambitions of her own—and Toni is determined to take on a very different kind of danger in impossible feats as a high diver. Yet they are all drawn back to each other—and to Palisades Park—until the park closes forever in 1971.
Evocative and moving, with the trademark brilliance at transforming historical events into irresistible fiction that made Alan Brennert’s Moloka'i and Honolulu into reading group favorites, Palisades Park takes us back to a time when life seemed simpler—except, of course, it wasn't.
Editorial ReviewNo editorial review at this time.
Atlanta, Georgia, 1930
HOBOES CALLED THEM “side-door Pullmans,” empty boxcars with one door standing open like an unblinking eye—God’s eye, maybe, daring the brave or the desperate to trespass, knowing their journeys could end as easily in jail or in a hospital as in Chillicothe, Ohio, or Casper, Wyoming. Eddie took the dare and ran to the back platform, planting his foot in a metal stirrup and hoisting his six-foot frame up onto the ladder. But before he could step up to the second rung, he felt something grab hold of his shirt collar from behind and pull him, with a violent jerk, away from the car. ... view entire excerpt...
Was there a place like Palisades Park where you grew up? What did it
mean to you?
Was Eddie justified in running away from home? Was he justified in
refusing all contact with his mother and stepfather?
What would you have done?
How was the Palisades “family” of workers and concessionaires like a
real family, and how was it different?
Have you ever had a dream or ambition in life that you never pursued (or did)?
Are you a parent? Would yo
u have encouraged or discouraged your daughter
from pursuing the dangerous life of a high diver?
Can you imagine being a daredevil like Toni? Could you have defied social
conventions of the time to live the life she led?
Do you think Eddie was
right or wrong in enlisting in the Navy? Can you
understand Adele’s angry response to it?
What was your reaction to Adele’s abandonment of her family?
Why did the author include the (true life) role the Mafia played in the
history of the park (e
specially as regards the later civil rights protests)?
How does Toni’s stand against the park’s policy about African
fit in with other incidents in her life?
Jack’s postwar illness was once called “shell shock” and would today be
nosed as post
traumatic stress disorder. How has the treatment of this
veteran’s disability changed (or not) since the Korean War?
Compare and contrast the dreams and desires of each member of the Stopka
family and how they changed over the course
of the story.
Would the lives of Eddie, Adele, Toni and Jack have been different if not
influenced by Palisades Park? How?
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