I began reading Palisades Park by Alan Brennert before we left for Hershey and finished it up on the trip. It worked out to be the perfect story to read right before traveling to a theme park. While I am way too young to have ever experienced Palisades Park, and I didn’t grow up in NJ, I at least had heard of Palisades Park before reading this story.
Palisades Park begins by telling you the back story of how Eddie and Adele met and fell in love at Palisades Park in the 1930s. Eddie had left home as a teenager and started off by jumping from carnival to carnival. He would take any carnival job he could get and then hop on the nearest train and find another carnival to join and make a bit of money. He then decided to get off the train back in NJ and go to Palisades Park, the place he remembers from his youth with a smile. Adele began her life working for her father as an actor, but when the movie industry moved to CA, her father stayed in NJ. Adele got a job working at a root beer stand at Palisades Park.
Eddie and Adele get married when she gets pregnant. They decide to purchase a French Fry stand in Palisades Park and work it together. They have a beautiful daughter which they named Antoinette. Antoinette, who decides to refer to herself as Toni, much to her mother’s chagrin. She enjoys playing with her brother Jack and the rest of the boys in the neighborhood. She spends her days at Palisades where she meets Bunty Hill who teaches her to swim and later dive right in the pool at Palisades.
Toni’s family has to learn to deal with the Great Depression, Eddie enlisting in World War II, the Palisades Park fires, discrimination and so much more. Can the family survive the changes and growing up and growing apart that takes place in life? Will Toni figure out how to reach her own goals in a world that sees her as just a girl? Can Jack find his place in the world? Will Eddie find a way to keep his head above water after the war? Will Adele ever find a way to accomplish her dream of being a movie star?
This was a great historical fiction. I enjoyed this story and felt it was an easy read. There were things that were predictable, but it didn’t make the story feel predictable. You will find yourself wanting to read what happens next. The story begins with Eddie as a boy himself and ends after Palisades Park closes in 1971. I enjoyed the fact that Toni was given a backbone and stood up for what she believed in during a time when it was frowned upon. I also enjoyed reading more about the life of the people who worked in Palisades. It gives you enjoy of a glimpse into the backstage life of the workers and their relationships. Being at Hershey while reading this I noticed many of the rides mentioned in this book as well it gave me an appreciation for the people who choose to work in the parks.
I encourage you to pick up Palisades Park by Alan Brennert, I know I will be looking at other books written by him.