A Boardwalk Story

Written by J. Louis Yampolsky
Review by Eileen Charbonneau

Fifteen-year-old Jack Laurel comes of age in his home town – Atlantic City, still the “Playground of the World” even in 1939, the tenth year of the Great Depression. The summer is life-changing and full of convergences for Jack. He meets three boardwalk entertainers who become mentors – a mysterious mechanical man who is a reclusive intellectual, a young pitchman with a gift for numbers, and a fortuneteller with no belief in her own powers. With the first two he enters a commodities trading partnership. Soon a crime boss wants to invest, and their dealings become dangerous. Jack is also facing murderous local bullies and his own sex and love life.

Family, friendship, honor, against the backdrop of a changing and ever more violent world: this big, fulsome novel has it all, told in a voice of hard-won experience. It’s a gripping story, a hybrid of nostalgic memoir and fast-moving suspense. Its language and details transport, as in a Memorial Day parade that includes Civil War vets, yet a black family is barred from attending while “the general revelry was not disturbed.” A tighter story may have come from more editing for repetition, and more care might have been taken to differentiate the language patterns of each character, but A Boardwalk Story is a compelling journey from a great new voice in fiction.