Legendary writer Trevanian brings readers his most personal novel yet: a funny, deeply felt, often touching coming-of-age novel set in 1930s America.
Six-year-old Jean-Luc LaPointe, his little sister, and his spirited but vulnerable young mother have been abandoned—again—by his father, a charming con artist. With no money and nowhere else to go, the LaPointes create a fragile nest in a tenement building at 238 North Pearl Street in Albany, New York.
For the next eight years, through the Great Depression and Second World War, they live in the heart of the Irish slum, surrounded by ward heelers, unemployment, and grinding poverty. Pearl Street is also home to a variety of “crazyladies”: Miss Cox, the feared and ridiculed teacher who ignites Jean-Luc’s imagination; Mrs. Kane, who runs a beauty parlor/fortune-telling salon in the back of her husband’s grocery store; Mrs. Meehan, the desperate, harried matriarch of a thuggish family across the street; lonely Mrs. McGivney, who spends every day tending to her catatonic husband, a veteran of the Great War; and Jean-Luc’s own unconventional, vivacious mother. Colorful though it is, Jean-Luc never stops dreaming of a way out of the slum, and his mother’s impossible expectations are both his driving force and his burden.
As legendary writer Trevanian lovingly re-creates the neighborhood of his youth in this funny, deeply moving coming-of-age novel, he also paints a vivid portrait of a neighborhood, a city, a nation in turmoil, and the people waiting for a better life to begin. It’s a heartfelt and unforgettable look back at one child’s life in the 1930s and ’40s, a story that will be remembered long after the last page is turned.
In this nostalgic, richly textured autobiographical novel about growing up on a poor Irish block in Albany, N.Y., prolific author Trevanian (Shibumi; Hot Night in the City; etc.) recalls his childhood during the Great Depression through World War II. In 1936, six-year-old narrator Jean-Luc La Pointe, his mother and younger sister leave Lake George Village for a gritty tenement in Albany to reunite with their deadbeat father and husband. He never shows up, and the penniless family makes do on their own: Luke's mother finds work as a waitress, and he fetches day-old bread on credit from the Socialist Jewish grocer across the street while steering clear of the Meehans from down the block, "a wild, drunken, dim-witted tribe... related in complex and unnatural ways." Affectionate portraits of the titular eccentric women punctuate Trevanian's sprawling tale: Luke observes the beleaguered and self-destructive Mrs. Meehan and meets the reclusive Mrs. McGivney, who perpetually relives a happier past while caring for a catatonic husband. Luke's "defiantly independent" mother, another "crazylady," marries the decent upstairs neighbor, but continues to idealize her con-man first husband. Though Trevanian's reminiscences make for a more atmospheric than carefully wrought novel, he sweetly evokes an innocent if hardscrabble lost age.
Customer ReviewsSee All
The Crazy Lady’s of Pearl Street.
Shibumi remains one of my all time favorite books.
I found this book guite depressing which is exactly where Trevanian wants you to be. But, his story telling is as exquisite as the four I have already read.
Although I would have liked to learn more of the crazy ladies
I guess I did through “mother”
Highly recommended from a long time nostalgic fan.
Boca December 2017
By the word
Can write a good tale, but seems to be under the illusion that he is being paid by the word.