Friday, September 14, 2012

The Bookie's Son by Andrew Goldstein

The Bookie’s Son by Andrew Goldstein

ISBN: 978-0-9848245-0-2
Pages: 248
Release Date: May 2012
Publisher: sixoneseven
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Publisher‘s Summary: The year is 1960 and the place is the Bronx. All twelve-year-old Ricky Davis wants to do is play stickball with his friends and flirt with the building super’s daughter. But when his father crosses gangster Nathan Glucksman and goes into hiding, Ricky has to take over his father’s bookie business and figure out a way to pay back his debt—before the gangsters make good on their threats. Meanwhile, Ricky’s mother, Pearl, a fading beauty of failed dreams, plots to raise the money by embezzling funds from one of her boss’s clients: Elizabeth Taylor. Fast-paced, engrossing and full of heart, The Bookie’s Son paints the picture of a family forced to decide just how much they’re willing to sacrifice for each other—and at what cost.

My Thoughts: The Bookie’s Son has the intimate feel of a memoir. The working-class Bronx neighborhood where the Davis family lives is described in such vivid detail I was as if I’d been there before. The first-person narration by 12-year old Ricky enhances the familiar and personal feel of the story. I sometimes felt as if I was sitting at the Davis’ kitchen table watching and listening as Grandma Rosie relayed stories of her past to Ricky and told him how to live his life. The more Ricky shared about his family and the neighborhood the easier it became to imagine the people and places he talked about. Ricky quickly drew me into his world with his sweet, caring nature, his vivid adolescent fantasies and his struggle to find the courage to save his family. I found myself laughing at some of Ricky’s anecdotes and nearly brought to tears by others, his sincerity breaking my heart. In just a few chapters I was emotionally invested in The Bookie’s Son, hoping for Ricky and Rosie’s sake, especially, that things would work out for the Davis family.

The book covers Ricky’s twelfth summer through Yom Kippur in October. Ricky’s got a lot on his shoulders: pounding, pulsing adolescent hormones; confused thoughts about girls’ bodies; ducking the neighborhood bully; preparing for his Bar Mitzvah and wondering what it means to become a man and how this is going to happen. But most of the time Ricky’s trying to find a way to save his family from the crippling debt his father owes a violent mobster. Ricky, like most 12-year old boys, wants his father, an extremely flawed, mean and inconsiderate man, to respect and love him and he wants to take away his mother’s worries. Ricky figures he’ll accomplish this by being a hero. It’s funny and sad to read as Ricky makes various plans to get the money and discovers, at 12, he doesn’t have the strength or bravery to do so.

Pearl, his mother, a narcissistic, quick-tempered, mouthy woman loves Ricky and, sadly, treats him as her best friend. Sometimes this scares him and often it further confuses him. But I think the shining light of the book is Rosie, Ricky’s grandma. Rosie is the quintessential Jewish grandmother. She has a 91-year old boyfriend she‘s called Mr. Fein for 20 years. She cooks constantly, forcing food on anyone who enters the apartment: even mob enforcers. Rosie relishes offering unsolicited Yiddish-laden advice to family and friends. She’s convinced everyone likes her because she’s so smart. She has no qualms letting her son-in-law know what she thinks of him: as a low-life, telling him in a string of unflattering Yiddish insults. She’s more sure of herself than Ricky is, and she believes she can save the family, roping him into helping with her scheme.

Much of the commentary about this book focuses on the comedy. And much of the book is funny. However, make no mistake that in the form of Nathan Glucksman, the family nemesis, a sinister force pervades this story and it is far from sweetness and light. Andrew Goldstein has set out to create an atmosphere not just of a time and place. There is fear, loyalty to family and friends and what it means to be part of a family, since all families are crazy. In the Davis Family, as in most families, there’s the good, the bad and the ugly! I was surprised at the brevity of the book and the uncertainty at the end, otherwise, Goldstein accomplishes the goals of this book with a great deal of success. I highly recommend reading The Bookie's Son!

Andrew Goldstein’s website

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review The Bookie’s Son and to Andrew Goldstein and SixOneSeven publishers for a copy of this book.


  1. I'm fascinated with organized crime so this sounds good to me. The fact that it reads like a memoir makes it sound even better.

  2. With the cover, it does seem like it is a memoir -- and I love that it reads like one too.

  3. I love it when a book draws me in like this one did with you!

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

  4. You are so right about this one having the feel of a memoir. I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn't. I do think Goldstein has put a lot of his own story into the book; it has the feel of a love letter to the place he grew up.

  5. I just finished it, and loved it. I am involved in the blog tour also. The story is based on the author's experience.

  6. Thanks for the great review and for the generous comments. I think Lisa nailed it perfectly when she said
    "it has the feel of a love letter to the place he grew up"
    That's how I viewed it when I was writing and it s how I still view it.

    thanks to all, andrew

    P.S. If any of you would like to write an amazon review I would appreciate it.

  7. I thought this was a great read, and I will be reviewing it Friday. It was very dark at times, but also funny and almost like a memoir. I found myself flipping through the pages really quickly, and the author has a great ear for dialogue and scene setting as well. I am so glad you loved this one. I liked it a lot too.

  8. I hadn't really thought much about this book, but your review haw me thinking twice about it. It actually sounds really good.

  9. I haven't run across anyone yet who hasn't enjoyed this book. It is a well written story and definitely a good one.

  10. I passed on this one, but really need to reconsider. I think it sounds so interesting. Great review.

  11. I thought it was a memoir until I read your review :) I go through spells when I am obsessed with organized crime so I'll have to make a note of this one.