Saturday, July 7, 2012

"An American Family" by Peter Lefcourt - Review & Excerpt

A Novel
By Peter Lefcourt
Amazon e-book; May 1, 2012
$3.99; 355 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4675-2353-0

About the Author


Peter Lefcourt is a refugee from the trenches of Hollywood, where he has distinguished himself as a writer and producer of film and television. Among his credits are “Cagney and Lacey,” for which he won an Emmy Award; “Monte Carlo,” in which he managed to keep Joan Collins in the same wardrobe for 35 pages; the relentlessly sentimental “Danielle Steel’s Fine Things,” and the underrated and hurried “The Women of Windsor,” the most sordid, and thankfully last, miniseries about the British Royal Family. He is a 30 handicap golfer, drinks too much good wine, and has never been awarded the Nobel Prize for anything. 

About the Book

What did it mean to become American in the mid-20th century? Peter Lefcourt goes beyond assimilation to take a nostalgic and dramatic look at what makes us truly American in AN AMERICAN FAMILY: A Novel (Amazon e-book; $3.99; May 1, 2012). Lefcourt, known for his best-selling comic novels -- The Deal, The Dreyfus Affair, Di & I, Abbreviating Ernie, The Woody, Eleven Karens and The Manhattan Project -- takes a more serious approach here as he revives the settings, styles and sentiments of the 20th century.

Roots, The Godfather, Angela’s Ashes, The Joy Luck Club, My Antonia, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Middlesex are just a few of the great family sagas that have evoked our shared immigrant experience. AN AMERICAN FAMILY is told through the shifting points of view of the five Perl siblings born in the 1940’s, between the two iconic dates of the last fifty years: the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the catastrophe of 9/11. Within this time frame the Perl family is swept up in the sweeping cultural changes of those years: the Vietnam War, the sexual revolution, rock and roll, drugs, women’s liberation, and the civil rights movement.

My Review

Before I begin this review, I have to admit it, I have to come clean - I am a pretend, wannabe, counter-culture hipster who tends to be mistrusting of anything that comes out of Hollywood, except summer blockbuster movies (I mean, have you SEEN "The Avengers"!?!?) and the Hemsworth brothers (yum!). So naturally, I was apprehensive about reading this novel, given that I did not know very much about author Peter Lefcourt. So with that being said, I also confess to you...I was wrong, I was wrong, I was wrong - all my apprehensions were unfounded, and arbitrary, because this book is one of the best books I've read this year!

The story is about the Perls - a family on Long Island, and follow them over a course of three generations. Author Lefcourt's narrative is full of subtly nuanced characters that are fiercely real, and the saga of a family that you will be able to relate to, on multiple levels. The story begins on a historical day, the assassination of President Kennedy, and then takes through the many milestones and historical events that the Perl family witnesses, such as the Vietnam War, Woodstock, and September 11th. The story revolves around the ten main characters - the first of which is Meyer, who has a penchant for theater actresses, and is a tailor by profession. Then there is Nathan, who becomes the male head of the family. Also, we meet a young and misguided lawyer who is constantly running after the ladies and booze named Jackie, with connections in all the wrong places.  My favorite, Elaine, is the one who is living a life of discontent, wanting more than to just be a mother and a teacher. Also, there is Michael, the ambitious one, trying to make a fortune and name for himself. An artist, but struggling to define his talent and his sexuality, there is the young and beautiful character of Stephen. And then, there is Bobbie (Roberta), the rebellious one, a hippie, a free-spirit trying to cram too much, too fast into her life.

What author Lefcourt has done in this novel is that he has highlighted the slow progression and evolution of an American family. We also witness the contrast between generations - from the older generation, with an immigrant mentality, to the next generation struggling to assimilate and define their own place in the American society, down to the new generation, liberal and accepting and breaking free of the bounds of traditions, to step into the society as home-grown Americans. This is a family full of colorful, vibrant and neurotic characters, and I'm sure you will find at least ONE (if not many) characters in this novel who will remind of you a certain uncle, or a cousin, or another. It is the believability of these characters, and the reader accompanying them on the journey through the times, and their growth and evolution that make this novel a true gem. Like good ol' American pie -- this book is delightful, refreshing, sweet and an instant CLASSIC!

An Excerpt

Her parents had spent the first six months of their marriage living with Uncle Meyer above his tailor shop…

Her parents had spent the first six months of their marriage living with Uncle Meyer above his tailor shop on Rivington Street, before they had gotten their own place in Brooklyn, where Elaine had been born. The apartment was on the second floor of a brownstone on Chester Street, in Brownsville.
She could remember mornings on Chester Street, her father getting up early to go to work, the smell of the Wheatina he made for the whole family, even in hot weather. She would lie on the couch pretending to be asleep, because if her father knew she was awake, he’d make her get up. Bed is for sleeping.

Elaine broke off pieces of her sandwich and watched the squirrels fight over the crumbs.
The door to the cafeteria opened, and a girl she knew from her psych class, a Negro named Felicia Evans, exited, tears running down her cheeks.

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Disclaimer:  I received an copy of this book via Meryl L. Moss Media Relations, in conjunction with a BookTrib Blog Tour. I was not compensated monetarily, or in any other way, for my opinion. The opinions stated in this review are solely mine, and are not representative of views of the author, or publishing company, of this book.


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