With thanks for Anne Cater at #RandomThingsTour and @flametreepress for sending me a copy of this book to review and chat about.
In 1904 Czarist Russia, Max, a four-year-old Jewish boy, witnesses his mother’s rape and murder by Russian soldiers. After the boy’s father extracts terrible revenge, father and son escape to New York and settle on the Lower East Side, a teeming melting pot of recent immigrants. Max meets a young Polish girl, Sophie, and the two children become inseparable playmates. By the time they are teenagers, Max excels at both school and sports, Sophie has become a stunningly beautiful young woman, and friendship has grown into love. Their plans are shattered when Sophie is forced to marry a local crime boss and once again, Max must simply watch as the most important person in his life is taken from him. In response, he begins a ruthless and violent climb to the top of the New York underworld.
If you like Mario Puzo’s The Godfather and Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy, you will love this debut novel. Published July 2019 by Flame Tree.
I read this book over a weekend and found it completely addictive. Kenneth Bromberg has created an epic tale spanning generations, from 1912 to the late 1940s. At the heart of the novel is a story of immigration and war, albeit on a large scale or a personal one, its devastating consequences and the struggles of immigration on the families that must uproot themselves. It’s a story of survival, no matter what you must sacrifice.
The novel focuses on the lives of three immigrants, Max, Sophie and Jonathan who arrive at different times in America to begin new lives after tragic circumstances. These three lives interconnect in ways they would never have dreamed of over the next 40 years, from organised crime to the glitz and power of emerging Hollywood studios.
It’s clear the author has an interest in the Mafia and its organisation; there are strong Mario Puzo vibes of ‘The Godfather’ influencing the core of the narrative, but this is very much Bromberg’s imagining. The central thread all comes from organised crime in America at the time and its effects and consequences on those caught up in it. However, there’s a real human story driving the plot as well, and it’s full of abuse, love, lust, terrible consequences, power, violence, patriarchal dominance and family bonds.
Max Zalensky is a fascinating character and the author cleverly keeps a ‘liking’ and interest for him (for me) throughout the novel, despite the horrific lifestyle he chooses to lead. This is one of those clever books that shows you the misunderstandings and makes you scream at the page. Max and Sophie’s relationship is particularly frustrating, and I found it sad to see it lead to the inevitable conclusion; it is fascinating to see how these people become who they are at the end of the book. I love the study of human nature in this context, and exploring what different people will do, or not do to survive.
I enjoyed the writing style and narrative structure over a lengthy time for our three focus characters, each constantly rooted to each other, but seemingly living separate lives. Bromberg weaves these stories seamlessly and it all finally crashes together in the shocking conclusion.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading this and I’m really happy to share the publication of it with other book fans. It would also adapt well as a screenplay, the narrative lends itself naturally to that form and it was a very cinematic read throughout for me. So all in all, this is an epic, violent study of survival in despairing circumstances. It’s a mafia novel and it’s a story of war and Hollywood behind the glamour.
An absorbing, addictive and bold story of early 20th century crime fuelled America.
Type: General adult fiction, thriller, mafia, graphic violence, sexual assaults, war, abuse.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Kenneth Bromberg grew up in the beach cities of Southern California with a passion for tennis, American history, and literature. He attended the University of California, Los Angeles, after which he worked for several years as a bartender. He eventually returned to UCLA to pursue an MBA and become a certified public accountant. After retiring from accounting, Kenneth fulfilled a lifelong dream of becoming a novelist. His first work, American Dreams, is based upon stories told by his grandmother who immigrated to New York from a small Jewish village near Kiev in the first years of the 20th century.