With jobs disappearing as casinos declare bankruptcy, Atlantic City in 2014 teeters on the brink of a plunge into darkness. But the Atlantic City Jason shares with his wife and daughter is the Atlantic City of his youth, when he lived and worked at the beach in his father’s soft pretzel store, where his family had close, trusting relationships with the owners of other stores, arcades, restaurants. Yes, it was a little seedy. Yes, it was down-at-the-heels. But everything existed on a human scale, and lives were interwoven in ways that created deep and lasting bonds....
There was a kind of magic that followed the cycle of the seasons which infused and energized the life of those who lived in harmony with that cycle. The gypsy families who did business in New Jersey through the summer would disappear to areas further south, to see the Gypsy King, each winter. Can you get any more mysterious and mythical than that?...
Also in the ebb and flow of Jason’s narrative is the tidal shift of the 1960s. The teenage girls stop wearing bras, the teenage boys grow their hair long. Rock and roll music changes dramatically. The smell of pot drifts through the summer air. Social and political unrest, civil rights struggles, Vietnam protests, all become a subtle blend of the colors of the times.
Jason is coming of age in one of the most tumultuous times in our country’s recent history, and what he learns of life is a combination of the sorrows of wintertime and the Dionysian risks of a 1960s Summerland....
In Mr. Boardwalk, an older, more magical Atlantic City manages to shine through, first in the glimmering shadows and then more boldly, taking shape and standing fully realized through the memories and devotion of a young boy’s love. Greenstein weaves a story of past and present in a way that creates a sense of timelessness.
A lovely review of Mr. Boardwalk in the New York Journal of Books, written by Debra Leigh Scott, waxes lyrical about the meaning of protagonist Jason Benson's adventures. If you're too busy to follow the link to the whole article, here are some excerpts:
"A heartfelt bildungsroman, a story of a man coming to terms with his complicated youth, and a vivid novel of place"