Mr. Board­walk

Louis Green­stein
  • Review
By – September 18, 2014

If you grew up spend­ing your sum­mers at a shore com­mu­ni­ty, Mr. Board­walk will speak to your mem­o­ries. Louis Green­stein per­fect­ly cap­tures the scenes, smells, sounds, and many nuances of sum­mer days filled with ocean, beach, and sky. 

Jason Ben­son nar­rates his own com­ing of age sto­ry that tran­spires over his for­ma­tive sum­mers spent on the Atlantic City Board­walk. Jason brings his wife and teenage daugh­ter to Atlantic City twen­ty years after he hasti­ly aban­doned his sum­mer par­adise. He needs to explain his past life and the hid­den secrets he has kept from them. 

Jason grew up as the pret­zel baker’s son. The famous, See Them Twist­ed-See Them Baked!” sign hung over the store for decades. 

Jason learned jug­gling basics from a Gyp­sy friend, prac­ticed dili­gent­ly, jug­gled day and night, and became a pop­u­lar fast-talk­ing well-known attrac­tion. The Board­walk became his domain. 

This was the Atlantic City before gam­bling casi­nos changed the cul­ture for­ev­er. It was the time taffy and fudge stores, pen­ny arcades, sideshows, for­tunetellers, movies at the Pier, Mr. Peanut, and Miss Amer­i­ca parades delight­ed vaca­tion­ing fam­i­lies. Atlantic City was Jason’s sal­va­tion and utopia. It was a land of adven­ture, hap­pi­ness, and security. 

These pos­i­tive expe­ri­ences stand in stark con­trast to his unhap­py bleak win­ter life in a Philadel­phia sub­urb. He is an angry, aloof, and iso­lat­ed stu­dent. His only friend is a drug ad­dicted boy from a dys­func­tion­al home. Jason is so dri­ven to recre­ate his ide­al­ized sum­mer life that he often takes the bus to down­town Philly to jug­gle or to Atlantic City on win­ter weekends. 

There are intrigu­ing scenes with the patient rab­bi he stud­ies with for his bar mitz­vah lessons. They dis­cuss the idea of scape­goat­ing and that theme reap­pears as an impor­tant thread through­out the book. 

Jason does go on to final­ly expe­ri­ence the high school social scene when an inter­est­ed teacher urges him to join the Dra­ma Club. She sees his short­com­ings, and encour­ages him to learn to inter­act and lis­ten to oth­ers on stage as well as in real life rela­tion­ships. Jason’s ego­cen­tric and pres­sur­ing per­son­al­i­ty make open and hon­est encoun­ters dif­fi­cult. This inabil­i­ty to inter­act also mir­rors itself in Jason’s self-acknowl­edged resis­tance to learn to pass and catch with a part­ner in juggling. 

The sto­ry­lines of fam­i­ly rela­tion­ships, young love, ear­ly death, aban­don­ment, a mysteri­ously dis­ap­pear­ing der­by hat, and the drug cul­ture are all absorbing­ly woven into the nar­ra­tive. Gold­stein traces Jason’s child­hood and adult life through this soul search­ing, touch­ing, and enter­tain­ing sto­ry. The read­er must deter­mine if Jason can ever be capa­ble of learn­ing to pass and catch.

Relat­ed content:

Reni­ta Last is a mem­ber of the Nas­sau Region of Hadassah’s Exec­u­tive Board. She has coor­di­nat­ed the Film Forum Series for the Region and served as Pro­gram­ming and Health Coor­di­na­tors and as a mem­ber of the Advo­ca­cy Committee.

She has vol­un­teered as a docent at the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau Coun­ty teach­ing the all- impor­tant lessons of the Holo­caust and tol­er­ance. A retired teacher of the Gift­ed and Tal­ent­ed, she loves par­tic­i­pat­ing in book clubs and writ­ing projects.

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