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“Light-hearted but not ‘lite,’ sweet-natured but never sentimental.” –TheBaltimore Sun
“A delightful novel . . . Aptly incorporates all of the sizzle, sorrow, and sporadic elation that a screwed-up family encounter. Nissen has spun an enticing story one wants to lap up whole.” –The Boston Phoenix
1. Are the characters portrayed in the novel actually “good people,” and, if so, what makes them “good”? Or, is the title meant to be sarcastic? How so?
2. Fran tells Roz on her first meeting with Edwin, “Things are hardly as they appear” [p. 5]. Where else in Roz’s life does her perception conflict with reality? What does this say about Roz’s character?
3. Why does Roz and Edwin’s marriage end? How does Miranda’s birth change them as individuals? Does their new daughter alter their marriage or merely accentuate differences that were already there? How does the author foreshadow the fate of the marriage long before Roz and Edwin themselves experience it?
4. Is Miranda and Roz’s mother-daughter relationship a realistic one? Roz had intended to be “the fabulous mom-who’s-more-like-a-friend-than-a-mom mom” to Miranda, not a “worrier” like her own mother, Adele [p. 67]. Does Roz live up to her expectations of motherhood? How does Roz’s perception of herself as a mother differ from Miranda’s view of her mother [see pp. 105 and 246]? How accurate is Darrin’s perception of their relationship [p. 237]?
5. What does it mean that Edwin does not have “one iota of New York savvy” [p. 7]? Was Edwin doomed from the beginning to return to Nebraska, “where the waves of grain were amber, the plains fruited, and the girls as simple and blond as sunflowers” [p. 10]? How are the native New Yorkers in the novel more “savvy”? How might Wing and Darrin, also “non-natives,” rank in terms of on Roz’s scale of savviness?
6. Aside from the references to public transportation [pp. 35 and 136], the tragedy of moving from Manhattan to Brooklyn [p. 137], the Metropolitan Museum of Art [p. 9], Zabar’s [p. 66], Bloomingdale’s [p. 133], and other New York City landmarks, what makes The Good People of New York a quintessentially New York novel? How might a non-New Yorker and a New Yorker read this book differently?
7. For which character do you feel the most sympathy? Which characters do not evoke as much compassion and why? How is the author simultaneously sympathetic and sarcastic toward her characters, and how does it affect your ability to relate to them? Is this more true or less true of the secondary characters, such as Ben, Alex, and Shaunna?
8. When Miranda tries to think of Spencer, why can she remember only the night her father left [p. 112]? Is Spencer a father figure to Miranda? What does he teach her?
9. How does Roz’s religion define her? How are Roz’s and Mona’s Judaism manifested differently? Is religion at the core of Roz’s identity? Is it a contributing factor to the failure of her marriage, or is it irrelevant? After Edwin and Roz marry, the author no longer mentions the religion of the people in Roz’s, Edwin’s, and Miranda’s lives. Why not?
10. The imagery of motion permeates The Good People of New York. For example, Roz imagines her courtship with Edwin in terms of arriving at a destination and establishing roots [pp. 11–12] and Miranda associates the paths her parents’ lives have taken with driving [p. 194]. What mood do these travel images and metaphors create? What do they convey about life in New York City? How is the implied sense of perpetual motion, the need to get from one place to another, reflected in the characters?
11. How do the letters from camp in Chapter 7 help advance the plot [pp. 75–90]? How does this chapter hint at the changes to come in Miranda’s family? Where else does Nissen use foreshadowing?
12. Compare the friendships in the book to the relationships among family members. Does one type of relationship seem to take priority over another? How does Ben and Miranda’s relationship demonstrate the way in which lines between family relationships and friends are often blurred? Does the novel accurately reflect how some people drift in and out of our lives and some people stay constant?
13. The novel spans a period of time from just before Miranda’s birth until her eighteenth birthday. Is this primarily Miranda’s story or Roz’s? Does the narrative voice shift successfully from Roz to Miranda? Is either one dominant? Does The Good People of New York fit squarely into the coming-of-age genre, and if so, whose coming-of-age does it portray?
14. Nissen often ends chapters before informing the reader of whether or not an event occurs and later fills in the plot (for example, the death of Adele [Chapter 5], the dissolution of Edwin’s and Roz’s marriage [Chapter 8], and Miranda’s rendezvous with Jeremy [Chapter 10]). How does omitting the description of events when they actually occur affect the development of the novel?
15. How is Roz like Adele [p. 67]? What physical characteristics and personality traits does Miranda inherit from her mother and father?
16. Nissen often includes cultural references to timely popular fads, for example, Roz’s return to law school [p. 65], the “latchkey kid” [p. 91], Obsession perfume [p. 133], the television show Moonlighting [p. 220], and sushi [p. 236]. Do these references successfully convey how society changed from the 1970s through the 1990s, or do they date the novel? How might they affect the reader who did not live through these times or is not familiar with these popular trends? How else does the author convey the changing times?
17. Miranda thinks, “That’s just the way things go: you never get to the place you once looked up to because once you’re there you’re no longer looking up and you realize that maybe it only really existed if you caught it on an angle from below” [p. 269]. How is this sentiment echoed throughout the novel?
Posted September 13, 2004
This is an outstanding book. Aahhh... the ending was great!I would tell everyone to read this book.hmm.. it would be a good movie!lol, just a thought.**********!Thats how many stars it needs!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 3, 2002
wonderful novel about two evolving women in New York City. Nissen captures the essence of the city with grace. The conclusion leaves a bit to yearn for; nonetheless, it was enjoyable.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 25, 2002
I recently went on a trip with my family to Paris France. After devouring three other books on this particular vacation, i was hungry for a familliar language after taking only one year of middle school French. In an English language bookstoor i found The Good People of New york. I was finished before we came home. As a teenager I could relate to Miranda's relationships with her mother, friends, boyfriends, and all the other exciting characters. I would recomend this book to anyone who was ready for an excellent read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 8, 2001
As a 'new age' teenager myself, I could really relate to Thisbe Nissen's 'The Good People of New York'. In my school, books with this much meaning are not read. Not often is there a book that will hold a teenagers attention, but this book was outstanding! I finished it in three days. Everyday after school I came home and read for hours, devouring this gripping novel. The characters really spoke to me, and I related to them, their problems, and their lives whole-heartedly!! Thank you for the best book I have ever read!!! This book deserves *6* stars not 5!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 9, 2001
This book was incredibly enjoyable to read. I felt a real connection to the characters and their situations. A fun read for a summer afternoon.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 30, 2001
I have just finished reading The Good People of New York. I highly recommend this novel for any who wishes to read a story with a very unique character. Thisbe Nissen is brilliant with words. This is one of the only books I've read where I have felt a direct connection to the story and the two main characters. The language is fluid and the story is moving. Becoming attached to the characters is not at all difficult. I would love to see a sequel to this novel.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 28, 2001
I love the book, 'The Good People of New York.' I first read a section of it in a magazine and i instantly loved it. It's a book based more on younger kids and I think that the situation is very unusual. Over all, I like it a lot.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 29, 2001
I read this book on vacation by the pool in three days. It's not a book about New York City but instead a book about relationships, coming of age and dealing with the blows you are given. I laughed out loud many times and groaned in frustration with the characters choices. Wonderful characters, I miss them already.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 9, 2008
In 1970 Lower Manhattan, Cornhusker Edwin Anderson meets native Roz Rosenzweig while both are on hands and knees searching for a key to an apartment where a party is occurring. To her surprise the saucy Roz finds she actually likes the ¿Gimp¿, nicknamed for his skiing prowess or lack of. A few months later, Roz and Edwin marry and soon have a child. <P> By the time their child Miranda reaches fifth grade, the marriage between Edwin and Roz disintegrates as she only has time for their daughter. Roz vows to be her daughter¿s best friend. However, as Miranda grows up, she wants a mother not a sister. As she struggles with relationships, Miranda knows she cannot turn to her mother for comfort because Roz is growing up too. <P> THE GOOD PEOPLE OF New York is an entertaining in depth look at growing up in Manhattan in the 1970s and 1980s. The story line contains a twist to the typical coming of age story as a loving mother and daughter grow up simultaneously and thus heartbreakingly impact their relationship even as they clearly love one another. New York has rarely been seen through a 'clearer' kaleidoscope then the one that Thisbe Nissen provides the reader. The author¿s debut novel will thrill readers who enjoy looking back a two to three decades within an emotional tale. <P>Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 3, 2013
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