Crossing Brooklyn Ferry: A Novel by Jennie Fields | Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

4.5 2
by Jennie Fields

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Escaping the narrow, wealthy life she led in Manhattan, Zoe Finney moves her family to a Brooklyn neighborhood where working-class families have lived for generations. She hopes the change will reinvigorate her profoundly depressed husband and provide a happy place for her daughter. But Zoe's arrival alters the lives around her, expecially the handsome schoolteacher


Escaping the narrow, wealthy life she led in Manhattan, Zoe Finney moves her family to a Brooklyn neighborhood where working-class families have lived for generations. She hopes the change will reinvigorate her profoundly depressed husband and provide a happy place for her daughter. But Zoe's arrival alters the lives around her, expecially the handsome schoolteacher next door, Keevan O'Connor, who is deeply drawn to her.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Though the title invokes Walt Whitman's great poem of wonder at humanity, this novel's scope and quality of execution is much narrower, tracing a predictable love affair between next-door neighbors. But more than anything, the novel is an extended love letter to Park Slope, Brooklyn, an old immigrant community whose spacious brownstones and quiet streets have recently been gentrified into an enclave of literary ex-Manhattanitesincluding Fields (Lily Beach). Editor Zoe Finney, her wealthy husband and their young daughter move to Park Slope from Manhattan, hoping that Jamie will recover from his depression over the accidental death of their elder daughter. Working-class Jim O'Connor and his wife, Patty, who live next door, resent the well-heeled influx represented by the Finneys. Relentlessly uncouth, unkempt and unattractive, Patty O'Connor overlooks her husband's philanderings; she is in love with her brother-in-law, high-school teacher Keevan, who shares their brownstone. Keevan and Zoe are immediately attracted to each other and start spending time together, despite Zoe's pangs of guilt. Patty's wrath when she discovers their affair puts many events in motion, including the lovers' need to make a decision about their future. Unfortunately, Fields settles for a pat solution. Even more disappointing is Fields's lack of empathy for her characters. In pitting brittle, professional Zoe against tacky, mean-spirited Patty, she renders both women equally unsympathetic. Park Slope's easygoing local color is more attractive than the people who live there. (May)
Library Journal
In the first work since her successful debut, Lily Beach (LJ 3/1/93), Fields takes her lead from the Walt Whitman poem "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" to evoke the ongoing flow of lives and stories. Zosia Finney leaves upscale Manhattan with her husband and children to settle in an old Brooklyn neighborhood. Having journeyed through an emotionally starved working-class childhood and then married into a wealthy but equally cold family, she seeks solace and a new beginning for her family in the orderly rows of brownstones. As Zosia faces the reality of the depression that has reduced her husband to a shadow presence in her life, she finds herself drawn to her closest neighbor, a warm-hearted schoolteacher named Keevan O'Connor. Their relationship is a catalyst for unexpected change for both families, as Zosia's husband is roused from his torpor and the the tenuous relations among Keevan, his brother, and his sister-in-law collapse. Fields's clear language and poetic tone make what could be mere soap opera a full-bodied modern folktale about the redemptive powers of love and sacrifice. Recommended for most fiction collections.Jan Blodgett, Davidson Coll., N.C.
Kirkus Reviews
From the author of Lily Beach (1993), a pleasant-enough love- cures-all saga set in a Brooklyn neighborhood on the brink of gentrification.

Zoe Finney has moved to Park Slope with her six-year-old daughter Rose and her deeply depressed husband Jamie. She's sold the Sutton Place co-op inherited from her husband's ultra-wealthy family and has set out to live her own way. Meantime, poor Jamie lies quasi-catatonic all day, while Zoe pines for sex and comforts herself with compulsive shoplifting. And gets to know her handsome divorced neighbor, Keevan, a sensitive schoolteacher who seduces her with Clue games and the kind of full-throttle adoration that neither her parents nor her husband have given her. Kid-at-heart Keevan also wins the trust and love of troubled little Rose. But some sort of stuff has to happen before the happy trio can sign on for happily ever after. The various salt-of-the-earth types who populate the neighborhood must negotiate some obligatory life crises: The liveliest subplot allows Keevan's bitter sister-in-law Patty to get a makeover, jettison her cheating husband, and discover the joys not only of dating but of cooking with lemongrass; Keevan must cure himself of his suppressed anger at women, which emerged during his first marriage (he knocks this task off with surprising ease); and in order to start loving herself, Zoe must get arrested for shoplifting and learn that Keevan still cares. When Jamie finally snaps out of it, puppy-eyed in his gratitude at Zoe's patience, she must go through some long-winded vacillations between duty and passion before Jamie selflessly decides to renounce her so that, without even having to make a difficult choice, she can be with Keevan.

A standard-issue fairy tale, then, rescued from potential dreariness by its likable characters and its nostalgic and vivid rendering of a neighborhood where benign nosiness still reigns.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Harper Perennial
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.86(d)

Read an Excerpt

One by one, beneath an April evening sky, the brownstones and butcher shops and vegetable markets of Park Slope, Brooklyn, begin to light. The Lucky Pub's manager plugs in the aging neon Budweiser sign with the lop-eared dog. At the Korean market, the owner switches on the bell-shaped lanterns that sway from his red-and-white awning. Commuters spill from the subway onto Seventh Avenue and stop for a moment at the top of the stairs to breathe in the evening air. It is as though the air of Brooklyn is perfumed with relief, the scent of home. Not much has changed since the subway was built in 1930, rattling the cellars beneath Ninth Street. Cordeiro's Market has been there for fifty years. And the Lucky Pub recently put in new paneling, but the crowd hasn't changed in character since World War II. Nor has the display behind the bar: faded shamrocks, pressed between glass and cotton, that Paddy Dunfey found in Prospect Park somewhere between 1930 and 1950. But now, in 1989, there are new stores, which cater to the recent arrivals in the neighborhood. A video store. A cheese store with fresh mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes. A muffin shop. A comic-book store. Already their awnings have tarnished in the city air, their windows are cluttered in a familiar way. And though not many houses have sold in other neighborhoods since the market crashed two years ago, in Park Slope real estate is still moving, and every third store along Seventh Avenue is an agency displaying slick pictures of renovated brownstones. If you turn right at the Lucky Pub you'll be on Eighth Street. Walk into its silence. Feel it: the rich solidity of the hundred-year-old blue stone sidewalks, the slope of thehill as it eases up toward Prospect Park, the Norwegian maples, which in summer are so thick the rain doesn't come through. And the houses, a soldierly sameness that can't help but please you, beginning to light now, with tables being set for dinner, mail being read. Every house on the block was built in 1886, by the same builder. On the north side of the street they are three-storied. On the south side, four. Symmetry a hundred times over, and yet, inside, there is no symmetry at all. The O'Neill teenagers are at war in 664. Darlene Kilkenny Sheehan's long-awaited new baby cries out in 621, and Darlene also cries as she rocks him, because her husband, Donald, is getting drunk down at the Lucky. Old Mrs. Reilly watches you from her window in 621. Somehow their lives fit into these narrow houses: seventeen feet wide, clad in brownstone, and each lit window marks a history of birth, love, and death. Row after row of brownstone stoops line up, row after row of wrought-iron gates mark the entrances with fleurs-de-lis. You could easily walk by your own house and not know it. People do every day. Even though they know their own gardens or garbage cans or trees, the sameness of the gates and houses is a lulling, sweet drug. You can catch glimpses of the interior detail: floral medallions on the ceilings, etched-glass doors. So beautiful for houses that have long been working class, affordable. Read the names on the mailboxes. Names that have been on these mailboxes for decades. Ryan, O'Connor, Kilkenny, O'Shea. Some since 1917, 1911. And the new names: Hartman, Jarvis, Epstein, DeLee. No Irish ring to these names. No long Brooklyn history here. People whose cars are new, whose jobs are unstable but even in a bad economy pay shockingly well. People who buy and sell in a day, who worry about preschool, install soaking tubs, own Volvos, have tax shelters. People who five years ago wouldn't have been caught dead in Brooklyn.

Excerpted from Crossing Brooklyn Ferry. Copyright ¨ 1997 by Jennie Fields.

Meet the Author

Jennie Fields is the author of Lily Beach and The Middle Ages. She received a master's degree from the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa. She is a senior vice president of a New York advertising agency, and she lives with her daughter in Brooklyn, New York.

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