Wednesday, June 11, 2014

#BookReview: The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman

Leona Helmsley has nothing on little Malka Treynovsky. I can’t say she was born with a bad attitude, but she was definitely born with a sharp tongue. Abandoned by her parents shortly after arriving in the New World from Russia, she’s taken in by the Italian family of the man who hit her with his ice truck. They never let Malka forget for one minute that she’s not really one of them, no matter how long she stays with the family and helps with the family business.

A smart girl, Malka, who becomes Lillian (and Catholic) along the way, is the only family member given a chance to go to college. She’s more than halfway through when she’s given the choice to either continue school or quit and marry the dreamy Albert Dunkle and join the family business. Lillian has always been fascinated with ice cream: how to make it, creating new flavors, and how to sell it.  Taking everything she's learned, she builds her own ice cream empire.  As she tells her story, you can’t help but to admire her work ethic, but she’s not a nice person at all.

Shrewd and ruthless may work in business, as proven by Lillian’s success, but it can wreak havoc on a family. We see Lillian cut ties with her adoptive family, keep her son at an arm’s length and berate her adoring husband regularly. The only person she consistently shows affection to is her dog. It’s really sad to watch her become so consumed with beating out all of her competitors that she forgets to take time to smell the roses until it’s too late.

Her personality, her dog and her legal troubles all seem slightly reminiscent of Leona Helmsley. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the author used her as inspiration for Lillian. Neither woman is likable and it’s hard to root for someone like that.  It's a fairly decent read, but it's also fairly long, almost too much time to give to an unlikable character.

Published: June 2014
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher, opinions are my own.

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