The Mas­ter Planets

Don­ald Gallinger
  • Review
By – December 20, 2011
This nov­el weaves togeth­er the life of a young bud­ding rock star with the trag­ic sto­ry of how his moth­er sur­vived the Holo­caust. Peter Jame­son grows up cocooned in the sub­urbs of New Jer­sey, enjoy­ing the close­ness of his three friends who make up his rock band, The Mas­ter Plan­ets. A typ­i­cal ego­cen­tric Amer­i­can ado­les­cent, liv­ing the sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll lifestyle, Peter has lit­tle con­nec­tion to and knowl­edge about his fam­i­ly until dis­as­ter strikes at home. 

The chap­ters, which span half a cen­tu­ry, alter­nate between Peter’s sto­ry and that of Rachel Aren­berg, alias for Peter’s moth­er. Peter is forced by oth­ers to con­front his mother’s trag­ic past as a revenge­ful par­ti­san, in order to under­stand who she was and how this has affect­ed him. The chap­ters which delve into Peter’s fam­i­ly his­to­ry are by far the most com­pelling, while the music busi­ness sto­ry serves as an inter­est­ing but weak­er counterpoint.

Gallinger describes both time peri­ods and geo­graph­i­cal loca­tions metic­u­lous­ly and col­or­ful­ly. His jar­ring, raw lan­guage puts the read­er right into the scenes. The author pro­vides an unusu­al angle to the themes of sur­vival, denial, revenge, fam­i­ly loy­al­ty, and the inevitabil­i­ty of suf­fer­ing to the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion of Holo­caust survivors.
Miri­am Brad­man Abra­hams is a Cuban-born, Brook­lyn-raised, Long Island-resid­ing mom. She is Hadas­sah Nas­sau’s One Region One Book chair­la­dy, a free­lance essay­ist, and a cer­ti­fied yoga instruc­tor who has loved review­ing books for the JBC for the past ten years.

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