Crossing Brooklyn Ferry: A Novelby Jennie Fields
Escaping the narrow, wealthy life she led in Manhattan, Zoe Finney moves her family to Park Slope, Brooklyn, an area of beautiful old brownstones where working-class families have lived for generations.A poor girl who married into money, Zoe finds comfort in the close-knit neighborhood.She hopes the change will reinvigorate her profoundly depressed husband and
Escaping the narrow, wealthy life she led in Manhattan, Zoe Finney moves her family to Park Slope, Brooklyn, an area of beautiful old brownstones where working-class families have lived for generations.A poor girl who married into money, Zoe finds comfort in the close-knit neighborhood.She hopes the change will reinvigorate her profoundly depressed husband and provide a happy place for her small daughter, Rose, to grow.
But her arrival there alters the lives around her, especially the handsome schoolteacher next door, Keevan O'Connor, who is deeply drawn to her. Despite Zoe's initial hesitation, they begin to fall in love. Rose is thrilled, recognizing in Keevan the warm, fun-loving father hers could never be. But when Zoe's husband wakes from his depression to see his wife slipping away, Zoe is torn between her love for two men.
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.
- HarperCollins Publishers
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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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