Reading List: Floating in the Neversink

"In the summer of 1955, nine-year-old Amanda Gerber tearfully leaves her best friend, Francine, and their adventurous life on her block in Brooklyn’s Flatbush. She joins her cantankerous family on the long, hot drive to her grandmother’s home in the Catskill Mountains among the city’s Jews who flock to countless hotels and bungalow colonies in the heyday of the Borscht Belt."

I just bought this one and I do look forward to reading it. Mood, setting, themes, everything. Looks like an intense read.

Here’s a review from the author’s – Andrea Simon’s – site:

Floating In The Neversink is a complex and tightly woven “novel in stories” told from the perspective of young Amanda (Mandy) Gerber. A pre-teen when the book opens in 1955, it follows Mandy through her adolescence and high school years, recounting her summers with her extended family in the Catskills and the other seasons back in Brooklyn. Simon’s remarkably detailed descriptions of these settings are an immersive treat for her readers, being gritty enough to overcome any over-enthusiastic nostalgia. And as the book includes subject matter related to the sexual assault of children, mental illness, racism, and suicide, readers should be prepared with trigger warnings.

Yet even as Simon’s writing exposes the sharper edges of the Catskills for Mandy and her family, it also celebrates the best of these memories. Her deep relationships with her grandmothers and seeing how Mandy, and her sister and cousins are shaped by their shared experiences, is a joyful tribute to family that shines out from the underlying dark conflicts. Over the course of the stories, Simon deftly unfolds the nuances of her characters, all of whom are humanly imperfect, yet all of whom remain somewhat shadowy around the edges. This is the essential challenge of the book as a collection of short stories. It succeeds because of the strong continuity and its detailed character development. It succeeds when understood as a series of memories, but readers will be left without the whole of Mandy’s story.

Will readers be satisfied with this sense of incompleteness? Floating In The Neversink demands that its protagonist accept that there are things that can’t or won’t be discussed. That there are secrets and things that are unknowable in every family. And Simon doesn’t give her readers any more insight than she allows to Mandy …

—Rabbi Deborah Miller, Books and Blintzes

I’m usually not a big fan of trigger warnings, but a lot depends on how the subject matter is handled. And since I write about suicide myself, well … don’t throw stones, right? I read the first chapter in the Amazon preview and liked the characters, and that’s usually a winner for me. Without characters to care about, the rest doesn’t really matter.

Check it out and check out where to get it at Goodreads.