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Palisades Park    by Alan Brennert Amazon.com order for
Palisades Park
by Alan Brennert
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Alan Brennert's Palisades Park is fiction based on the fact of an actual park Palisades Amusement Park - that operated in New Jersey near Cliffside Park and Edgewater from the 1930s to 1971. The tale is told in the most part by Antoinette Stopka (or Toni, as she preferred), the high diver. From the time she was seven years old, her life was twined around the park's activities all summer until season's close in the Fall.

Toni fell in love with swimming and, by extension, with the high diver. That was her ultimate goal, to be a high diver. Diving ten stories up from a ladder into a tank holding only six feet of water! Her family's story proves to be much the same as anyone else's in the amusement park business. Adele and Eddie met and fell in love. Marrying and needing a family income, they acquired a French fry stand at the park and worked that until both their kids were old enough to be a part of the family business. Eddie enlisted in the Navy when war broke out in 1941, while Adele worked hard at the stand and realized something was missing in her life. This caused the first real rift in their marriage. I enjoyed growing up with the Stopkas with their ups and downs.

The description of the fire that destroyed a great deal of the park was hard to read. The fire spread as quickly in the novel as it did in the actual park! But the best part for me was the way Brennert wove the history of the times seamlessly into the storyline. I grew up at about the same time as Toni and remember so much of what he writes. The star-burdened flags hanging in house windows denoting family members in the war; trying to help the war effort from home; hair styles; the latest fashions; the wonderful sounds of big bands music; the last dregs of the Depression; Spam ... Good grief, I could go on and on, but Brennert has already done it with far more skill than I could dredge up.

Get yourself a copy of this novel and jump into the pool the Palisades Amusement Park pool. Perfect for the summer season that is just around the corner.

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