I just finished Golden Country by Jennifer Gilmore. The short of it is: Excellent book about family dynamics; read it when you don’t mind being a tidge depressed.
The story follows three intertwining immigrant families who make their start in a small neighborhood in Brooklyn. From there the three families go on to find the American dream and lead extraordinary, and yet oh-so ordinary lives.
Really, the plot doesn’t sound like much, but Gilmore writes such interesting characters with great depth to them. While I did not particularly like all of the characters, I found all to be very believable. I can certainly imagine meeting any member of Brodsky, Verdonik or Bloom families in a grocery store.
Gilmore takes you through the struggles that can occur in any ordinary family, using the backdrop of an incredibly dynamic time in history. The book takes place over almost four decades, from 1925 up to 1962. Gilmore explores what occurs historically during this time from the point of view of ordinary people. Bootlegging and the mob, the depression, the invention of the television, WW II and the Holocaust; she even touches on the changing roles men and women play within the family using the scope of two very different generations.
However, this book is not exactly a happy-go-lucky romp with three lovely American families. There is crime, disappointment and alcoholism, just to name a few. I think (hope) Gilmore was attempting to end the book on a happy note, but I couldn’t help but think of all that had not changed and all of the sadness.
This wouldn’t be my first choice of books to pick up and re-read. In fact, I doubt I ever will again. However, it was good and extremely well-written. I’d particularly recommend it for a book club with a focus on families, ordinary lives, or American history.