Golden Country, Jennifer Gilmore's masterful and irreverent reinvention of the Jewish American novel, captures the exuberance of the American dream while exposing its underbelly -- disillusionment, greed, and the disaffection bred by success. As Gilmore's charmingly flawed characters witness and shape history, they come to embody America's greatness, as well as its greatest imperfections.
Spanning the first half of the twentieth century, Golden Country vividly brings to life the intertwining stories of three immigrants seeking their fortunes -- the handsome and ambitious Seymour, a salesman-turned-gangster-turned-Broadway-producer; the gentle and pragmatic Joseph, a door-to-door salesman who is driven to invent a cleanser effective enough to wipe away the shame of his brother's mob connections; and the irresistible Frances Gold, who grows up in Brooklyn, stars in Seymour's first show, and marries the man who invents television. Their three families, though inex-tricably connected for years, are brought together for the first time by the engagement of Seymour's son and Joseph's daughter. David and Miriam's marriage must endure the inheritance of not only their parents' wealth but also the burdens of their past.
Epic and comic, poignant and wise, Golden Country introduces readers to an extraordinary new voice in fiction.
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August 14, 2006
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Excerpt from Golden Country by Jennifer Gilmore
IT WAS JOSEPH BRODSKY, the one person who had never caused any trouble, who did not want his daughter to marry David Bloom.
"I will not have my grandchildren brought up on filthy money," Joseph told his wife the evening after Miriam had called from New York with the news.
Married! Miriam had screamed so happily into the phone. Instantly Joseph remembered her, a girl in a yellow bathing suit on the dock by Sebago Lake, her hands on her hips. When had her bones grown into a woman's body? He imagined her limbs elongating before his eyes as if he were watching the time-lapse film of a flower blooming, a crystal forming: his daughter growing up and away from him.
Joseph had been readying for sleep before the phone call. Now, sitting on the edge of his bed, he paused a moment before removing his shoes. Then he set upright the milk carton he had taken to putting by the bed so he wouldn't have to get up to urinate so many times during the night. Joseph was beginning to feel the effects of age the real effects, ones that seemed to rise up from that strange place deep within him where his faith was stored and to refuse the marriage troubled him. He wanted to be sure his daughters were taken care of. But David Bloom? Of all the men on earth. He didn't know the boy well, it was true, but history is history. End of story.
"What are you talking about, Joe?" Esther sat at her vanity slathering her face with cold cream.
"Mob ties." Joseph nodded his head to emphasize the gravity of this statement. He thought of his own brother, the day he left Brooklyn for that gang of thugs and how his mother gave all of Solomon's belongings his comic books, shirts, his telescope with the broken lens to Henrietta Szold. For the Hadassah, his mother had said. And that woman had sent the package back a clean cardboard box tied tightly with twine without so much as a note.
"How do you know for sure?" Esther asked Joseph.
"I know because I know," he told her.
Only once had Joseph discussed Solomon, and that had been when he'd come home late from a terribly hard day on the long selling road. Frustrated by how little such a long day had yielded, Joseph walked in the door, drank three glasses of peach schnapps, told Esther the story, wept, and then tried unsuccessfully to undo his wife's bra in the kitchen.
"And how's that?" Esther watched in the mirror as her husband dipped his feet into his leather slippers. "For Christ's sake, Joe. Miriam can't be running around that city single and loose in Manhattan forever."