How Sweet It Is!: A Novel

  • Review
By – March 30, 2015

While float­ing in a pool dur­ing the balmy win­ter in Mia­mi Beach and gaz­ing up at the palm trees wav­ing in the warm breeze, many a Jew has pro­claimed It’s a mechaya!” which trans­lates from Yid­dish to mean What a plea­sure!” or How sweet it is!” Thane Rosenbaum’s nov­el How Sweet It Is enters into the mag­i­cal Mia­mi Beach space in many Jews’ mem­o­ries. The sto­ry digs deep­er and pars­es out that nos­tal­gia in an unflinch­ing­ly fun­ny nov­el of the Pos­ner fam­i­ly — two Holo­caust sur­vivors, Sophie and Jacob, and their son Adam — doing every­thing they can to avoid one anoth­er in a city with an infi­nite sup­ply of col­or­ful diver­sions. The nov­el is set in the sum­mer of 1972, when Jew­ish gang­ster Mey­er Lan­sky still held forth on the penin­su­la, bounc­ing back after return­ing from Israel as the Jew­ish nation declined to absorb the avowed crime boss. Oth­er Jew­ish char­ac­ters in the book relo­cate to Mia­mi Beach as much for the sun as to flee the racial con­flicts in the north­ern cities. Rosenbaum’s writ­ing is a joy to read: he takes time to rev­el in scenes of Jew­ish delis as well as counter-cul­ture orgies of sun­burnt Flower Pow­er polit­i­cal pro­test­ers. The com­ing-of-age tale takes place dur­ing the 1972 Repub­li­can and Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tions. The char­ac­ter of Mia­mi Beach plays a star role in the descrip­tions of the min­gling cul­tures of Jews, blacks and Cubans. One can almost feel the stran­gling humid­i­ty, smell the fresh ocean air, and taste the babke and onion rolls from the But­ter­flake Bak­ery, the spon­sor of Adam’s Lit­tle League team. How Sweet It Is takes on geopol­i­tics while putting a face on white flight and immi­gra­tion. In the book, chil­dren inter­pret the bat­tle for inter­ra­cial har­mo­ny through inte­gra­tion as hav­ing to wake up at an ungod­ly hour to trav­el across town to school, and no longer being the fastest run­ner in class.

Read Thane Rosen­baum’s Vis­it­ing Scribe Posts

On Doc­u­ment­ing Jew­ish Fic­tion Writ­ers & How It Inspired a New Book

Flash­back: Mia­mi Beach, 1972

Return­ing to Where It All Began

Discussion Questions