Friday, September 28, 2012

The Bookie's Son, Andrew Goldstein (4.5 stars) Review and Giveaway

About The Bookie’s Son

Paperback: 248 pages
Publisher: (sixoneseven) books (May 1, 2012)
Buy The Bookie's Son here

In 1960, as a way to pay off some of his debt, the bookie, Harry Davis, starts collecting loan payments for the Bronx gangster, Nathan Glucksman. Making his rounds, Harry visits a sweet tailor named Morris, who is a survivor of the Holocaust. Whether out of pity, or because Harry was one of the liberators of the camps during World War II, or because he is prone to rash decisions, instead of collecting from Morris he gives him some of Nathan’s money so that he can move to Israel. Nathan’s henchmen, the Spratz brothers, come looking for Harry, who is forced to escape and leave his bookie business in the hands of his twelve-year-old son, Ricky, and his almost deaf and nearly blind mother-in-law, Rosie.

The Spratz brothers ransack the apartment and threaten not only to harm to Harry, but also Ricky’s mother, Pearl. Ricky, who is his mother’s confidant and emotional crutch, takes it on himself to raise the money and rescue his family. He dreams of being the hero. Like the rest of the Davis family—the best family in the Bronx—he believes he is an extraordinary person trapped in an ordinary life.

He embarks on a series of failed attempts to obtain money, which he needs to bet on a fixed horse race. He ends up stealing cash from his father’s drawer—money that his father was saving to make a payment to Nathan—and then rides in a stolen car to Aqueduct to place his bet.

Meanwhile, other members of the family, in their own shady ways, are trying to acquire cash so they can appease Nathan. Harry is working on smuggling tax free cigarettes from North Carolina and Pearl is planning to embezzle money from Elizabeth Taylor, a client of her boss.

Each member of the family is broken and needs fixing. Though they are all unscrupulous, they are filled with love and loyalty. Fast paced, engrossing and full of heart, The Bookie’s Son paints a picture of a family forced to decide just how much they’re willing to sacrifice for each other––and at what cost.


Growing up is hard. Twelve-year-old Ricky Davis should be outside playing and soaking up youth, but instead he's helping his father take bets and fearing for his family. Set in the Bronx in 1960, The Bookie's Son is a gritty and real look at a family's sacrifices and struggle to survive.

Ricky is sacrificing his youth while his mom withers away from the beauty she once was and his dad digs a deeper and deeper hole with the mob. When Ricky joins his father on a collection visit, he sees the underbelly of life firsthand. Once his eyes are opened, reality is the only option in a childhood that should embrace dreams and silliness. Instead, he has to witness devastating acts of cruelty. His life is a constant roller coaster of fear, pain, loss, and suffering.

His only hope is to grow up and get out. But, without a male figure to look up to, Ricky is struggling to find his own way to manhood: "I saw no role models among these men. My father, the obvious choice, seemed too flawed and too preoccupied with his own demons to lead the way."

The Bookie's Son is a harrowing coming-of-age tale with unforgettable characters. Ricky is such a three-dimensional character that it felt like I was reading his personal diary, not just a work of fiction. In one particularly gruesome scene, Ricky is forced to watch the mob teaching his father and another man a lesson. When the head of the mob directs one of his henchman to cover Ricky's eyes, I wanted to reach through the pages and do it myself... to save this boy.

Other characters stay with you as well. Ricky's mother and father, Pearl and Harry, are fractured and broken but have an underlying strength that keeps you rooting for them to turn it around. Even Nathan, the man causing them so much misery, is multi-layered. I wanted to hate him, but even he seemed to be caught in a vicious cycle, incapable of changing his ways. Several other characters shoved their way into my heart as well.

Although the ending is clouded in uncertainty, I walked away with the hope that Ricky would rise above... somehow. The Bookie's Son is a gritty and powerful read, and one I would highly recommend. There's no denying parts are hard to read, but the author does an excellent job creating characters you care about... with moments of humor and endearing honesty laced throughout.

Rating: 4.5 stars

About Andrew Goldstein

In my early twenties I was selected as a Bread Loaf Fellow and had my nonfiction book, Becoming:An American Odyssey published by Saturday Review Press. However, in order to make a living while writing I worked at many diverse jobs: tree planter and assistant librarian in Oregon, organic orange and olive farmer in California, school bus driver, Zamboni driver, editor, stock broker, power transformer tube winder and tennis pro in the Berkshires, and custom builder in the Boston area. I’m slowly transitioning out of construction and becoming a full-time writer. I play competitive table tennis three times a week, mentor a ten-year old boy every other week, and take care of my grandson one day a week. He fills that day with joy.
I grew up in a world that no longer exists: The Bronx 1947-1960. The Bookie’s Son, based on my childhood, was the story I wanted to tell. I have been writing The Bookie’s Son on and off for forty years.

Thanks to TLC Tours for my review copy.

Note: I received a complimentary copy for review purposes. A positive review was not requested or guaranteed; the opinions expressed are my own.

Please visit other stops on the The Bookie's Son Blog Tour page.

I'm thrilled to be giving away a paperback copy of The Bookie's Son to one lucky reader (US and Canada only).

To enter to win, please leave your name and email address in the comments below. The contest will close at 5:00pm EST on Wednesday, October 3.

I will put each name in a hat and have my trusty assistant (my lovely 12-year-old daughter) pick one. The winner will be announced here and on Twitter Thursday (10/4/12), so please leave your Twitter name in the comments below as well.

Extra praise for The Bookie's Son

“Powerful Debut” Publishers Weekly

“A good summer read.” Library Journal
“Whip-smart, atmospheric and funny, Andrew Goldstein’s The Bookie’s Son will transport and endear you with its tale of a young hustler on the move to save his family.” Jenna Blum, author of The New York Times & international bestsellers Those Who Save Us and The Storm Chasers
“In this rollicking debut, Andrew Goldstein captures the Bronx in 1960 with vivid detail and larger than life characters…a menacing and a hilarious read.” Ladette Randolph, author of A Sandhills Ballad and the editor-in-chief of Ploughshares
“Wow. This is a great novel. Brilliantly written, it reminds me of a combination of Angela’s Ashes and David Sedaris. Deeply insightful as well as very funny.” Sophie Powell, author of The Mushroom Man


Anonymous said...

I think I'd really enjoy getting to know Ricky and his family!

Thanks for being on the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.

Jo Michaels said...

Sending some love your way! Jo Michaels yassabook2012 at gmail. Twitter handle: @WriteJoMichaels

Tia Bach said...

Heather, Thank you for the feature! TLC has brought some wonderful books my way. I'm grateful.

Jo, Thank you! You are entered. Appreciate it.

bookworm said...

I'd like to enter this. I grew up in the Bronx of the 1960's. Some of the adults I grew up around were Holocaust survivors. I will tweet this, too.

Tia Bach said...

Thanks Jo & Alana for entering and sharing. My 12yo drew a name out of a hat... Alana, you are the winner of the paperback. Please send me your mailing address to tiabach at depressioncookies dot com.