The Bookie’s Son by Andrew Goldstein is a book that I enjoyed from beginning to end. It’s serious, it’s funny, and it brings to life the Bronx in the 1960’s so vividly that you feel sure you are right there experiencing every moment of these character’s lives right along with them. This novel is actually based on the author’s own life and I always find that this adds so much more to a book and with this one it was no different. It took Andrew forty years of writing on and off to get The Bookie’s Son to us and I’m glad he did! I loved his writing style so I certainly hope to see more from him in the future!
Ricky Davis is a twelve year old boy living in the Bronx waiting for his upcoming Bar Mitzvah – oh, if only it was that simple. However, for Ricky life functions more on dysfunction than normalcy. His father is a cutter – that is, he cuts pieces of fabric for women’s clothing and his mother works as a secretary to a theatrical lawyer who handles clients like Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe. All this sounds pretty standard so far but there is a darker side to Ricky’s father and that is that he sidelines as a bookie and is a compulsive gambler. The bigger problem is that he owes a lot of money to the Jewish mafia – specifically Nathan. Of course he doesn’t have the money to pay him back but Nathan has always had a soft spot for Ricky’s mother so he agrees to let Ricky’s dad work for him collecting debts. It doesn’t take long for him to screw that up and it’s back to square one, only worse. Then Ricky’s mother gets involved thinking that a good way to pay the debt would be dipping into Elizabeth Taylor’s bank account. The one thing that nobody wants is for Nathan to decide to just do away with Ricky’s father.
As you can see Ricky’s life is quite the roller coaster. He lives in fear of not only losing his father but also of his father because unfortunately he can be pretty mean to his son. Ricky should be being a kid and out playing with his friends; being normal. Instead he’s at home taking bets for his father while he’s at work and later while he’s busy hiding from Nathan and lord help him if he screws it up even slightly as his father will blow a fuse for sure. On top of that he’s constantly thinking about how he, a twelve-year-old boy, can get the money to get his father out of debt. Along the way Ricky is growing up and with that comes a fascination with girls, worrying over his Bar Mitzvah, and mostly wondering how he’ll ever manage to live up to what his father expects of him.
What struck me the most with this book is the relationships that Ricky had with both his parents. He and his mother maybe have too close of a relationship for a boy of his age. Pearl talks to Ricky about everything; they have long talks that border on too personal and even Ricky feels uncomfortable with it at times. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing untoward going on; she just leans on her son more than she probably should for a boy of his age. Ricky’s father is pretty volatile. He’s one of those strong man type men who can fight his way out of almost every situation. The problem being is that Ricky is pretty much the opposite. He’s a small kid and not tough at all and his father doesn’t hesitate to point that out. Pearl is always saying that despite their problems they are the best family in the Bronx but Ricky is smarter than that. He knows how far from the truth that really is but at the same time I do feel that there was a lot of love in this family; it just wasn’t shown in a traditional way. Will this family ever be able to mend their broken relationships? Will they survive the Jewish mafia? Will Ricky be able to pull himself out of the dysfunction of his family to make his own life?
The Bookie’s Son is a gem of a book. I always say that about those books that aren’t at the top of everyone’s list but should be. It’s about family, coming of age, and most definitely about hope. Well worth reading!
The Bookie’s Son by Andrew Goldstein is on tour with TLC Book Tours so be sure to pop in to the other tour stops for more thoughts on the book. You can purchase your own copy here in the US or here in Canada or you can try your luck and enter my giveaway below for a chance to win your own copy!
GIVEAWAY DETAILS (US/Canada)
I have 6 copies of The Bookie’s Son by Andrew Goldstein to share with my readers – one copy via the TLC Book Tour and 5 more copies offered up by the author himself – isn’t that fantastic of him! To enter…
- For 1 entry leave me a comment entering the giveaway.
- For 2 entries, follow my blog. Be sure to let me know if you already do so I can pass the extra entry on to you as well.
- For 3 entries, blog or tweet this giveaway.
This giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents only (no PO boxes) and I will draw for the winners on Saturday, September 29/12. Good luck!
Source: Review copy provided by TLC Book Tours and the Author. No compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are my own.