Monday, June 30, 2014
Book Review: From Rockaway by Jill Eisenstadt
Wow, it feels like forever since I've done a regular book review. Okay. From Rockaway was the first library sale book I finished, and I am delighted with it. It's short but the story feels dense. Like how restaurants know to serve you small slices of really fudgy cake.
The book starts with four working-class kids from Rockaway Beach - Alex, Timmy, Chowderhead, and Peg - who are coming home from prom. (I think the story is set in the 80s.') Of the four friends, only Alex is going to college. Continuing school is so rare in this neighborhood that seeing a kid go to bartending school is enough to make the whole community extremely proud, so Alex is a celebrated oddball. But when the friends part ways that fall, their lives, including Alex's, begin to spiral out of control.
The Rockaway Beach in this book is bleak, inescapable, tough, and alternately dull and horrifying. (Dull, because there is nothing to do and no money to do it with. Horrifying, because when the kids' boredom festers, they turn to amusements such as Death Kegs and endless drinking/pot.) Timmy, Chowderhead, and Peg really seem to have no choices and no future. However, it seems that one (usually) good thing about living in Rockaway is the people - everyone has known everyone else all their lives, which Alex comes to miss in college. The bonds between Alex, Peg, Timmy, and Chowderhead, as well as the stupid things they do together, feel very powerful and somehow fleeting to me. I kind of hope that Eisenstadt based this book on her own teenager-hood.
Apart from the story itself, what I noticed most about this book was the writer's unusual choice of metaphors and similes throughout the book. She compares feelings to very commonplace, ordinary things, which is something that most writers don't dare to do, for fear of sounding un-intellectual. For example, it sounds fancier to compare friendship to "an interdependent golden chain" than to say "All [Alex] can do is hug Peg, and as she does she lets a mosquito suck blood from her wrist" (189).
However, I like the latter description much better.